Review: Re-Cycle (Gwai Wik)

The Musical

One of my favorite horror movies to date is the Pang Brother’s The Eye, which told the story of a blind woman getting a corneal transplant through a donor. Unfortunately for her, the donor had the genetic predisposition to see ghosts. Of course, like all asian horror movies, it was remade for the American audience to digest. So if you’re in the mood to have the shit scared out of you, go rent the original; it’s that good.

Ending sermon though, I have come into contact with the Pang Brother’s latest outfit, Re-Cycle. A visually stunning and emotionally driven film. What’s different about this movie than Eye is that it’s not much of a bonafide horror movie but more of a psychological thriller, reminiscent of movies like Jacob’s Ladder and Stanley Kubrick’s version of The Shining.

The film revolves around a singular female protagonist, Tsui Ting-Yin (Angelica Lee), a successful novel writer whose books have been made into Lifetime/Oxygen Channel-esque movies. You know, the type of movies with a lot of romance and unnecessary tragedy, real tear jerkers. She announces a new book, Gwai Wik (or “Re-Cycle”) which is more aligned with the supernatural.

Along with the stresses of writing a new book, her estranged husband returns to her after 8 years and wants to reconcile with what they had. Unfortunately, the movie’s handling with this conflict is set aside for the majority of the movie to put more focus on the events that transpire. So, character development between the two isn’t put in the spotlight until way later at the end of the movie.

Indeed, these events, like the estranged husband, are anything but welcoming to Ting-Yin. As she progresses deeper and deeper into putting herself into the main character’s shoes, things turn belly-up. We are treated with typical asian horror cliches: long-haired ghosts wandering around behind opaque pane doors, scaring the shit out of everyone (including the audience). However, that is the least of Ting-Yin’s worries as she begins to slowly delve deeper into the world of “recyclables.”

What the hell? Is this the new Iron Maiden video?

Like I had mentioned before, the film is a visual marvel. Using CGI and set pieces to create a twisted version of Alice in Wonderland. The world Ting-Yin steps into harbors the forgotten and abandoned, from childhood toys to suicide victims, everything looks decrepit and used. However, over time pieces of the world become eroded or “recycled” and if one gets caught up in the erosion, they are forever erased from the world.

The film also seems to be inspired by the Silent Hill games. From some of the imagery to directly using actual sounds from the game itself. It’s great for once to see a game’s narrative and disturbing visuals being used as an influence for a movie, instead of the other way around.

Along the way, Ting-Yin comes into contact with a little girl whom she affectionally calls “Ting-Yu.” Ting-Yu knows more about this dream world than Ting-Yin does and rightfully so as later on in the story, she becomes a pivotal role in the climax of the film. I won’t spoil it for you but the ending is pretty emotional and dramatic and will definitely put a tear in your Eye.

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The duo, however, don’t go through this world like a cakewalk. There is some conflict to behold. Besides the aforementioned long haired ghost who stalks Ting-Yin, we also run into zombies who look freaking pissed. Because they are forgotten souls, they feel the need to rage against the machine of the living. This includes harassing Ting-Yin and Ting-Yu everywhere they go.

All and all though, this movie is really about the central character and her self-involvement within the character she created in her own subconscious mind, and how the character becomes absorbed into this frightening world of the abandoned. After you see the ending, you’ll understand as to why she created this world in her head and why she wanted to go there in the first place. It’s heartbreaking, it’s tragic, and it’s frightening, but it is worth the watch. It isn’t like conventional asian horror flicks but it does have a lot of imagination to back it up, much like the imagination of Ting-Yin.

Rating: 4.5/5

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