The Maid

Synopsis: Some rules should never be broken

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…
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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.

Story: 6.5
Acting: 4.0
Production: 6.0

Chills: 6.5
Gore: 5.0
Violence: 5.0

Date of viewing: September 23, 2012

2 responses to “The Maid

  1. While I certainly agree with you that the execution of The Maid leaves much to be desired in terms of film craft, it was my understanding that at its heart, the film is very much concerned with socio-ethical issues. That it managed to draw attention to the very real and context-heavy issue of treatment of migrant domestic workers, and did so with a plot that was refreshing and commercially appealing was an achievement.

    Furthermore, its explanation of characters mid-way is integral to the film’s suspense structure and setting within the Hungry Ghost Festival. But at its heart is exploitation of an innocent migrant, and this it tells movingly. It is fair to level criticism on a work if it sets out to do something and fails, but not to criticise it for what it doesn’t aim at in the first place.

    • Obviously, the socio-ethical side was lost on me. Personally, I found that facet muddled and likely exaggerated (i.e. the previous maid’s experience no doubt doesn’t reflect reality). Maybe it connected with others, but not myself.

      Quite frankly, if the filmmakers’ intentions were to highlight the treatment of migrant domestic workers, then I’m not sure that a horror film was necessarily the best vehicle for it; people usually go in slightly incredulous already, just by virtue of the genre.

      Of course, had the storytelling had been sharper, then perhaps this element would have played well – even in a hrror film. As it stands, however, I don’t think that the film succeeds on many levels, irrespective of the filmmakers intentions.

      Having said that, and in all fairness, of the three people I know who’ve seen ‘The Maid’, I’m the one who liked it the least. The others weren’t enamoured with it either, but at least they found a few redeeming values in it that I didn’t.

      Given your input, however, I think I may revisit the film sooner than expected; I am curious to see what I’ve missed. I will also consult my friends to see if they picked up on those elements and what their thoughts about the issue are.

      I’m glad that you brought it up, Jennifer Anne. Thanks for your feedback 🙂

      The Thorn

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