Image Entertainment presents
ďI know sometimes I have a temper. But I have been working on it.Ē- Winnie Leung (Charlene Choi)
Stars: Charlene Choi, Shawn Yue
Other Stars: Isabella Leong
Director: Oxide Pang
MPAA Rating: R for (some violence)
Run Time: 01h:25m:25s
Release Date: 2009-02-03
DVD ReviewWhat the heck has happened to the Pang Brothers? In 2003, when The Eye (the original, no Jessica Alba version) was released stateside, Oxide and his brother Danny were pegged as the future of Asian horror. Unfortunately, they have fallen off the radar a bit since, thanks to a pair of pointless sequels to The Eye, and a couple of bad Hollywood pictures in The Messengers and a remake of their own 1999 film, the Nicolas Cage vehicle, Bangkok Dangerous. Itís not that the Pang Brothers havenít delivered quality films in-between, though, as Ab-normal Beauty and Re-cycle were strong efforts. Now, Image Entertainment brings their 2006 film, Diary to domestic DVD, and, while itís a mixed bag, it is worth a look thanks to an interesting twist ending.
Winnie Leung (Charlene Choi) is a young woman who seems depressed, living isolated in her dark apartment. In her spare time, she writes in her diary and makes her own puppets, but itís obvious that sheís having difficulty getting over the departure of her boyfriend, Seth. Her only confidant is Yvonne (Isabella Leong) who comes over occasionally to keep Winnie company as well as give her advice. One day, Winnie meets Ray (Shawn Yue), whom she invites over for dinner, and eventually starts a relationship with. Ray looks a lot like Seth; a fact that Winnie brings up a bit too often at the dinner table.
It becomes clear early on that the Pang Brothers are trying to make Diary work by showing a creepy atmosphere down our throats. While there is one neat trick that I never saw coming around the hour mark (good luck fighting the urge to rewind back to the opening credits), the rest is way too predictable to enable this to rise above the rest of the Asian horror movies weíve seen over the last 10 years. Still, despite the predictability, the ending is surprisingly effective. It left me scrambling for a bit more of an explanation, but once things were clearer, it was nice to reflect on the neat twist that encompasses the final 15 minutes or so.
Itís just a shame that the first hour of the film is so amazingly slow and plodding that itís difficult to stay interested long enough to stick around. Fortunately, the total running time is a mere 85 minutes, so things could have been even more meandering. Part of the problem is Charlene Choiís performance, at least during that first hour. Sure, sheís supposed to act creepy and make us think sheís at least a little bit crazy, but she overdoes it at times, coming off as more annoying than nuts. Isabella Leong (The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor) gives a much better performance in what turns out to be the most challenging role in the film. Shawn Yue doesnít have much more to do than to be the token boyfriend in the story, but heís still solid throughout.
Payont Permsithís score works horribly with what the mood and tone that the Pangs are trying to craft. The music is reminiscent of what we hear weekly on 24, and I donít think itís a stretch to say that the same, intense, up-tempo tunes we hear as Jack Bauer is tracking down terrorists, don't work in a supposedly spooky, atmospheric Asian horror film. The presence of the score doesnít do a thing to help the already troubled first 60 minutes, and, at times, it goes a long way towards making that stretch of the film actually worse. Still, the Pang Brothers had to sign off on the scoreís inclusion, so they deserve the brunt of the blame for keeping their film from being more than an average creep fest with a killer twist.
Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: This 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation is impressive at times, but a bit too soft in spots. For the most part, the images are nicely detailed, with impressive blacks and shadow levels. The color palette is intentionally drab, but well-rendered and with accurate flesh tones throughout. Thereís very little dirt, grain, or other blemishes to speak of.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: The audio makes nice use of the surrounds, and does a good job in creating a nice, spooky atmosphere. The dialogue is crystal clear, blending in quite well with the rest of the overall mix.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 10 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Keith, My Name is Bruce, Palo Alto
Packaging: Keep Case
Extras Review: The only extras are the trailer for Diary and previews for other DVDs.
Extras Grade: D-
Final CommentsDespite a so-so track record at this point in their filmography, my ears still perk up when I hear of a new Pang Brothers film. Diary is their latest, and while itís a hit-or-miss affair, the ending is reason enough to give it a spin. Image Entertainment is responsible for this release, and while the audio and video are quite good, the lack of extras is a disappointment.
Chuck Aliaga 2009-02-02