Silk 詭絲 (2006)

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 4/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 7/10

SILK 詭絲 (2006) - Su Chao-Bin

When it comes to asian horror, ghosts are always introduced to us by answering two questions: What can they do and how did they come to be? For the latter question, it is always in the supernatural aspect. Ever approached it in a scientific aspect? Avoiding the typical long-hair ghost tropes that have plagued the asian horror genre for so many years, comes forth one of the most expensive Taiwanese films at the time.

Silk revolves around Hashimoto, a crippled scientist, who leads a small team sponsored by the Japanese government to search the world for ghosts. With the help of his invention, the Menger Sponge, he is able to successfully capture the ghost of a young boy in a broken-down apartment. By applying a Menger Sponge-enhanced spray on one's eyes, one can visually see the ghost. The team then calls upon Tung (Chang Chen), a Taiwanese sharp shooter and lip reader to come in and analyze the behavior of the ghost child. With further observations, the team realizes that the ghost boy follows a fixed pattern of activities, from walking to the door to staring out the window. This then leads to the team letting the ghost out, with Tung shadowing his every movement. Leading a trail of silk wherever it goes, the ghost becomes the pivotal plot device as Silk continues to unfold, revealing the ghost's past.

The film is extremely demanding to immerse us into its world. It has its rules, and we are commonly asked to follow them. This is due to the fact that Silk attempts to provide scientific explanations for all supernatural occurrences, maybe too hard. It might be interesting and original in the horror genre, but the science is definitely not genuine. However, for this film, the fake science still works, even though most of the logic are done with human-made theories instead of facts. As much as the Menger Sponge spray can convince us that we can see ghosts if our eyes are sprayed on, it does not mean that Menger Sponge-sprayed bullets can transform a gun into a ghostbuster.

As much as the ghosts in Silk are viewed scientifically, it does not mean they are harmless. The ghost child may be innocent, but he can squeeze the life out of people too. Just don't look at him directly in the face. This is where Silk still has some elements of an asian horror film, but in a way, they are much creepier. Notice how slow the ghosts crawl in Japan? Well, would you like it if the ghosts here crawl like human-sized spiders? Yes, they move their arms and legs that fast. The scares themselves are not as horrifying as they can be, which puts Silk one full rank below our familiar asian terror-fests. But this is completely acceptable, because Silk is far more thoughtful that pushes the boundaries of a one-dimensional horror film. Nevertheless, Silk does contain several moments that cause us to abruptly "check out."

The biggest flaw in Silk is the filmmakers' handling of the budget. The CGI in this movie is sincerely bad, something that either education programs on TV or video games in the new decade would pull off. The worst part about it is that almost every visual effect driven scene can be avoided by using a different clever technique of telling the story. It seems here that the director is either a novice in the horror genre or just a novice in general filmmaking.

In spite of its unskillful direction and marginal acting, Silk does succeed with characterization, not by the powerhouse performances, but by the conceptual idea of each character's desires. Aside from the underdeveloped minor characters, the two leads in the film both touch on the philosophical debate on life's value and the clouded realm between life and death. Hashimoto wishes to become a ghost, to live a life with no responsibilities. Tung's mother is on the verge of dying, but Tung himself is unwilling to let her go, unsure if it is better to be dead than to be alive. This is the official factor that puts Silk separate from the other plagued asian horrors. 

Silk offers a second layer, another dimension into its story that explores with depth, even if the film on a technical basis did not execute itself to its full potential. The movie may suffer from several aspects of filmmaking: direction, acting, a simplistic script. It asks us to turn on our brains when its pseudoscience forces us to turn off our brains instead. In addition, as mentioned before, Silk suffers the most by cheesy effects. But to quote the Hollywood Reporter, the film "appears to be so well meant that these flaws are easily forgiven." It leaves an imprint in our heads after the viewing, not your normal roller coaster of terror where it is over once the ride is over.

In conclusion, Silk is a very special asian horror film. For once, here comes a film that tries its very best to avoid all the flaws that the asian horror genre have went through and brings forth a ghost that we can fear and have feelings for at the same time. It is often pulled back at times by un-interesting scares or bad CGI, but Silk craves for thoughtfulness and intriguing premises within its story, and it still manages to keep us interested, keep us entwined around its silk of thematic material.


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