Something about Feng Shui jumped out at me. The cover isn't that enticing but lately I've been trying to dig a little deeper to find interesting lesser known contemporary Asian horror movies and stumbled upon this moderately successful Pinoy flick from 2004. Now, I don't claim to be an expert on Filipino cinema. In fact, quite the opposite. I've seen no more than I could count on both hands and that's mostly limited to the goofy cult comedies of Joey De Leon. Modern and straight forward is just not on my radar but with reviews comparing it to a Filipino Ju-On, I knew I had to make it a priority.
Kris Aquino plays Joy Ramirez, loving wife and mother who's doing her best to help her family adjust to life in a new house. One day she's taking the long commute home from work when a man on the bus leaves something behind, she chases after him to return it but he seems to be purposely avoiding her. She opens the crumpled newspaper to reveal a Chinese Bagua mirror. Traditionally used in Feng Shui to bring good fortune and ward off negative spirits. For those who are unfamiliar, it's the octagon shaped thing on the cover. This one isn't your garden variety Asian dollar store Bagua. It's kind of worn out and clearly an antique. The old lady who works at the bakery tells Joy that it's an unusual one and that she should hang it outside on the door instead of the living space which is traditional.
Within the next few days Joy starts having an amazing good luck streak. She gets a promotion at work and makes a ton of money, same thing happens for her husband, a distant relative dies and she inherits a fortune, she wins a drawing at the supermarket for an entertainment center. Things seem to be going well for Joy and her family until people around her start mysteriously dying. First, the old lady at the bakery, then a security guard in the gated community she lives in, and then another. It doesn't take long for her to realize that it's the Bagua. She tries to write it off as coincidental until the spirits of the dead start hanging out in her house. Literally, just hanging out. She'll be at work and neighbors noticing ghosts just walking around through the windows. They don't do much more than scream at or startle everyone, but when shit starts flying around Poltergeist style Joy knows that something has to be done.
One recent death is reported in the paper and she recognizes the man as the man who originally discarded the Bagua on the bus. Shortly after the curse was transferred to Joy, he was hit and killed by a another bus. Hoping for some answers, she reaches out to his widow who lavishly lives in the most glorious Filipino mansion. The lady doesn't seem fazed by the death that surrounds the bagua but more than anything, she wants it back. She's become addicted to fortune and Joy sees the effect it could have on a weaker person and leaves with no real answers.
At her wits end she visits a Taoist priest who tells her the story of a Chinese Princess who was having her feet bound in that sadistic way that they used to do to women in ancient China, so she'd be delicate and deformed, the way a proper lady should. Wrapped tightly and bound in Iron, they called her "Lotus Feet". One day there was a fire and her family left her behind, she couldn't walk or run so she burned to death, clutching that very Bagua, staring at herself and cursing it's future owners. Whoever looks in the mirror will die at the hand of their own Chinese Zodiac symbol. The man on the bus was born in the year of the rabbit, a bus called the "Rabbit Line" hit him. The old lady at the bakery was born in the year of the rat and died of poisoning from rat urine. This of course doesn't apply to the owner. She or he will have great financial gain as long as they don't mind the people around them dying horribly and being surrounded by their angry spirits. You know, no big deal.
This images reminds me of the 1981 HK horror movie The Imp that I reviewed last Schlocktober.
Elements of Feng Shui were a little cheesy. It's kind of a classic Monkey's Paw type of tale, with an Eastern spin of course. What makes the movie so interesting to me isn't necesarily the story, but the general flavor which felt totally new to me. There was clearly a nice budget and the director, Chito S. Rono has a unique artistic vision. At times reminding me of classic Argento lighting and hearkening to Hong Kong horror masters such ss the Shaw Brothers. Rono creates an atmosphere that is truly unlike any film I've ever seen from any country. Tonally strange, color palette chosen not only creates an other-worldly unease, but a borderline sense of insanity.
I get to look at your awesome Mondrian color blocked house AND I can have this corned beef??
Suddenly the movie became Suspiria in the Suburbs of the Philippines.
A friend compared the house to a "Nightmare Full House", I was thinking similarly that house reminded me of a Halloween episode of the Simpsons.
One of my favorite things about this movie is the director's (or Art director's/designer's/cinematographer's) amazing use of a single color on color. Here you can see both mother and daughter are wearing pink in the pink kitchen which is lit with a pink hue. An unusual choice.
Kids room is all about the greens and yellows.
Everything is Ochre with eerie neon highlights. Creates an almost apocalyptic feeling of dread.
Kris Aquino is lovely, she looks great in every single frame.
Joy's husband with a derpy look on his face, but there's the color thing again. Orange City, welcome to it.
Feng Shui is by no means ground breaking in terms of story or development. As far as the comparison to Ju-On, I see very little of that aside from a long haired female ghost who happens to be Asian. There are a lot of horror cliches that an american audience would be immune to. However, Stylistically this is one of the coolest horror movies I've seen this whole year. Hence the overkill in screenies. I found myself rewinding and pausing constantly just because I wanted to see what they did. From a technical standpoint Feng Shui is a modern masterpiece.
There are also a ton of quirky moments that will keep this film close to my heart forever...
Yes, son. A "Brown-out".
Remember when she gave the man at the door some Corned Beef about 20 pictures back?
There are few things I love more than SHAMELESS product placement.
I can share one thing though.
One thing I love more than shameless product placement...
Our leading lady getting hit in the head with a, clearly very much made of rubber, "dead" lizard.
I had such a blast watching this movie. It was announced earlier this year that both Chito S. Rono and Kris Aquino would be returning for the upcoming Feng Shui 2! I couldn't be more excited! If it's remotely as colorful and charming I'll be satisfied. This review is more of a love letter to Feng Shui than anything. It's a film that demands it's viewer to LOOK. Almost aggressively "LOOK AT ME. LOOK AT THE COLORS. ARE YOU LOOKING? WHAT ABOUT ALL THIS GREEN? ". This film has spoken to me and it's message is haunted rainbow. A haunted rainbow that reaches from Manila to my heart.