Chinese legend has it that the gates of Hell open and the dead walk the Earth for 30 days each year. Break the rules set for humans for survival and face the haunting consequences of your actions. When a young immigrant and non-believer in the supernatural world innocently breaks the rules one by one she is forced to understand that the spirits should never be disturbed…
The Maid 6.25
eyelights: The cute maid (even though she isn’t wearing a French maid’s outfit).
eyesores: The uneven storytelling, the unsophisticated scares.
A good friend of mine gave me ‘The Maid’ because he knew that my Hallowe’en moviefest was coming up. Until then, either I knew nothing about the film, or it had simply flown right over my head.
It turns out that ‘The Maid’ was a Singaporean production and was, at the time, the horror film with the biggest box office numbers in Singapore’s history. Ironically, the press material also claim it to be the first home-grown production – which might mean that its box office claim to fame is kind of sad.
Be that as it may, it was exceptionally popular, not just back home, but also around the world, garnering film festival awards by the handful. It has been well-received by some critics, who have been known to compare it favourably as a cross between ‘The Sixth Sense’ and ‘Ju-On’ (a.k.a. ‘The Grudge’).
Frankly, I just don’t get it. Oh, granted, the comparison is spot-on. But the acclaim is completely lost on me.
I’m a fan of ‘The Sixth Sense’ and ‘Ju-On’ (although I prefer ‘Unbreakable’ to the former and ‘Ringu’ to the latter), so I would have surely enjoyed a well-made film emulating the best of both.
But that’s the catch, isn’t it? It has to be well-made.
And ‘The Maid’ is anything but.
If anything, ‘The Maid’ is a made-to-order thriller fashioned after the likes of the afore-mentioned ‘Ringu’ and Ju-On’, and likely others of their ilk (‘[Rec]’, ‘Honogurai mizu no soko kara’ and ‘Shutter’), international successes that spawned remakes and sequels galore – amongst other things.
No doubt that the makers of ‘The Maid’ wanted to tap into this ripe market and, in so doing, stole all the most popular elements of these films, including jump cuts, loud booming sounds, flashes, creepy split-second imagery, …etc. In other words, aural cues that have little to do with storytelling and human psychology. Instead they went with the easiest elements – the visceral.
That’s not to say that the picture is especially gory or violent. Not at all. In fact, it’s incredibly subdued compared to other films like it. But it does invest all its frights in artificial jumps and screams, the lesser of all scary-movie techniques. Now, if these had been used to enhance an otherwise creepy film, that would be fine. But these were not enhancements. This is it.
The rest of the film is “resplendent” with weak storytelling (characters appear out of nowhere, unannounced/unexplained, and logic defies much of the on-screen behaviour), poor editing (just because you can cut doesn’t mean that you should), sloppy execution (chases where the person being pursued teleports hundreds of meters ahead?), trite dialogue (which was warbled by the actors in garbled English) and so many other problems that it feels like a DIY production made by incompetents.
Im short, ‘The Maid’ is nothing but a carbon copy of more successful films – but an Nth generation copy, that looks all sloppy, lacks definition and simply isn’t much fun to look at. If its incoherence does anything, it makes one want to see the far-superior originals and toss this poor reproduction to the waste basket.
It’s not an entirely horrible horror film, but, at the very least, it’s too redundant to be worth the time – and it’s most certainly not worthy of any praise.
Date of viewing: September 23, 2012