Gwai Muk
(GWAI MUK) 2005
Director: Pou Soi Cheang

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Gwai Muk The Cheng family buys a luxury highrise condominium, spacious, priced below market, oh lucky day, right? Home Sweet Home; aka, The Monster (Gwai muk, 2005) is about to reveal the darker face of fortune.

Their kid is only three going on four. He vanishes into the walls of the condo, & after a few small plot complications, the mother (Shu Qui) is pretty much on her own to find out what happened to her child.

She soon learns there are corridors behind walls, ducts, crawlspaces, tunnels that lead from one apartment complex to the next, an elaborate maze, within which something has long lived, giving rise to legends of ghosts.

The missing child's mother (Shu Qi) is phobic about strangers, crowds, people generally. Overcome with shyness, it makes the search for her son Chi Lo (Tam Chun Ho) all the harder.

Gwai MukSlowly a mystery unravels. Years before, when the government reclaimed the land & set out to knock down old buildings in favor of new development, squatters would not give up their homes.

During the protests of the poor vs the wealthy in power, things got out of hand & many were killed in a fire.

"It" has taken the child into the underground either from meanness or for company or most likely out of a desire to mother a child, for this monster is female.

Ghoulish Yim Hung is played by Karena Lam (aka, Kar Yan Lam) whose horrific make-up design disguises a Chinese-Canadian actress who is in reality very beautiful.

Gwai MukThe acting throughout, & by everyone, is top-grade, including for the child actor whose terror is palpable.

The broken humanity of the Monster is as tragic as it is unsettling. The misery of Chi Lo's mother is deeply painful to observe.

The child's struggles to escape & find his way out of the dark maze, & just for survival, provides some of the most amazing scenes. The mute monster's twisted love is in its own sick way an awesome thing.

We never know certainly how Yim Hung became disfigured, but we can assume it was in the fire that tore through the area when it was still a ghetto.

Gwai MukIn flashbacks we see how she lost her family, & it's an incredible story for stark sadness.

Despite her monstrousness & dangerousness, the story convinces the viewer to care for her fate, to empathize with her in so many ways.

It's a mix of horror & compassion, as in classic Universal classics, wherein monsters like Frankenstein, the Mummy, Wolf Man, & King Kong have a distinct heroic side, or awaken as much pity as horror.

Gwai muk is an unpresuming but really very good little film, undeservedly little-noted even among cogniscente of Asian horror, or unjustly condemned by a few who wanted more scares & less compassion.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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