Re-cycle (Gwai wik) (2006)

The abandoned don't just disappear.
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Re-cycle (Gwai wik) - The abandoned don't just disappear.

The Pang Brothers embark on an epic journey with Re-cycle (Gwai wik) and by doing so they enable themselves to do their thing more spectacularly than Alicia Masters on her third date with Ben Grimm. What starts as a seemingly run of the mill supernatural horror gradually mutates into a fantastical adventure full of exquisite environments and prodigious perils. While this mutation detracts from the horror somewhat the transition is handled deftly enough to not ruin the overall movie experience.

The story revolves around Tsui Ting-Yin (played by Angelica Lee, not to be confused with the director of that Hulk film but totally to be confused with Lee Sin Je), an author struggling to find inspiration for her next book now that she has a best seller under her belt. The movie begins like a fairly typical Asian horror with our author being spooked out by slight apparitions, knocking noises, weird phone calls and discarded long black hair. At this point it is obvious something supernatural is haunting the troubled Tsui Ting-Yin and it seems like it is something to do with her writing, having decided to delve into the horror genre.

As the products of her imagination become more corporal in her world she is eventually compelled to enter the fantasy world. This is where the film begins to change. The fantasy world is a "forgotten world for the abandoned" where everything discarded ends up, "even thoughts and unfulfilled promises", a world that reflects her initial thoughts about the subject of her new book Re-cycle. Initially the "Ghost Land" is a spooky place filled with apparitions and taunting scenery but as the movie progresses the eeriness is replaced by ever increasing fantasy creatures to the extent that one may expect Tsui Ting-Yin to ultimately flee on Falcor. Eventually our heroine must endure a number of quests to escape the fantasy world while inadvertently learning a life lesson about abandonment (She shouldn't done that, she's just a girl... poor little feller).

It is in the fantasy world where the Pang Brothers aesthetic talents come in to play and they have an opportunity to really push the envelope within the context of this story. The backdrops are colossally beautiful with a meticulous attention to detail. Given the random and disjointed nature of the quests given to the trapped author there are plenty of opportunities to show-off in a diverse range of scenarios with a vibrant selection of colours. Unfortunately the myriad of beautiful scenes sacrifice other essential elements which makes the film lose some of its appeal.

The story thins as the style fattens. By the time Tsui Ting-Yin is going through her quests the film has been morphed into a whole different genre. The horror aspect has vacated the room and eloped with the scares. It can be argued that, in a world such as is crafted here, the unconnected quests should be accepted on face value and their relevance should not be questioned but this aspect robs the characters of their importance and they become less interesting. The final task tries to revitalise the interest in the lead with the aforementioned life lesson but by this time the beginning of the film seems like something watched a few weeks ago. Not that it drags, it is just the genre change has been so drastic, albeit gradual, that the viewer is in a totally different frame of mind and is enjoying the movie for totally different reasons.

Re-cycle manages to impress in different ways. It starts as a competent horror, nothing original but well crafted and captivating by the prospect of what may emerge. What does emerge is completely unexpected and drastic enough to make any previous expectations a distant memory as the fantasy element starts to dominate.
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Categories: Asian Horror Movies
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