AB-NORMAL BEAUTY (Sei mong se jun)

(director/writer: Oxide Pang; screenwriter: Pak Sing Pang; cinematographer: Decha Srimantra; editor: Curran Pang; music: Payont Permsith; cast: Race Wong (Jiney), Rosanne Wong (Jas), Anson Leung (Anson), Michelle Mee (Jiney’s Mother); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Danny and Oxide Pang; Tartan Video; 2004-Hong Kong/Thailand-in Cantonese with English subtitles)

“It’s a highly stylized voyeuristic tormented artist shocker of a horror thriller that is more gruesomely enigmatic than entertaining.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Hong Kong born but Thai based cowriter and director Oxide Pang (“Who is Running?”/”Diary”/”The Tesseract”)uses his twin brother Danny only as coproducer; Danny codirected with him the acclaimed horror film “The Eye.” Ab-normal Beauty is a highly stylized voyeuristic tormented artist shocker of a horror thriller that is more gruesomely enigmatic than entertaining.

Jiney (Race Wong) is a bored but talented art student who is into photography. When she comes across a bloody car crash, she gets excited photographing the dead male victim and turns away from taking photos of flowers and trees to obsessively take only photos of impinging death. At the marketplace, she pays the butcher to kill chickens for her to photograph. Jin also arranges to take photos of dead birds strewn across the sidewalk. Her lesbian girlfriend Jas (Race Wong, her real-life twin sister and both are members of Hong Kong’s hot musical duo R2) finds Jin becoming mentally unstable in her quest to photograph death, as the temperamental artist walks the thin line between madness and genius. Jin goes almost completely bonkers after hanging around admittedly for too long in her red-tinged darkroom checking out her gory photos. The film leaves its interesting Peeping Tom arc after an hour or so and becomes increasingly more exploitative and less interesting as Jiney receives “mysterious death photos” and a “mysterious videotape,” which totally changes the direction the tense psychological thriller was heading into a cheesy horror wannabe snuff film. Jiney now mistakenly thinks the death shots showing up at her school locker and the videotapes left on her doorsteps were from fellow student Anson (Anson Leung). He’s someone who has a crush on Jiney and secretly photographed her, and in payback she made him strip and poured red paint over his body while photographing him as he was writhing in agony after she threatens him with a knife.

The mystery death photos and videos are later revealed as being from a leather-hooded psycho serial-killer who viciously assaults his female prey on camera and then snuffs them out. He sends his supposed kindred spirit Jiney the crime shots to enjoy (how he knows about her is not revealed).

Needless to say the film loses its way in the dark and becomes more pointlessly sleazy than artistic, giving us an unfulfilled payoff that superficially touches on issues of perverse female fetishes and childhood sexual abuse without explaining or doing much with that forbidden territory of subject matter. Things were left too opaque and we are only left over-saturated with desaturated morbid ‘ab-normal’ images of females dripping blood but never get a chance to know what Jin is thinking about all this. What it all means is an uneven film that shoots for style over substance and by going for two stories in one film, it fails to get either one right as it leaves one with the lurid torture shots of the female vics that I could have done without very nicely.

REVIEWED ON 1/25/2009 GRADE: C+   https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”