Double Vision (2002) / Horror-Thriller

MPAA Rated: R for strong violence, disturbing imagery and gore
Running Time: 112 min.

Cast: Tony Leung, David Morse, Rene Liu, Leon Dai, Kuei-Mei Yang, Sihung Lung, Brett Climo
Director:  Chen Kuo-Fu
Screenplay: Chen Kuo-Fu, Su Chao-Pin

Review published May 19, 2003

Double Vision fits in quite nicely among the new breed of horror cinema, mostly emanating from Asia, which prefers slow build-ups and blow you away endings.  Inner Senses, The Eye, and many others have raised pulse rates in many Asian audiences, but Americans still seem to prefer their horror films to be dumb fun.  Of course, the notable exception is The Sixth Sense, which really can be seen as the catalyst for all of the new psychological suspense, which apparently had much more resonance with filmmakers and audiences overseas than here in the US.  Luckily, the video market is worldwide, so true fans of the genre don't have to miss out while waiting for Hollywood to catch up, or to remake them in a more dilute, crowd-pleasing form like The Ring.

Tony Leung plays Huang, a Taiwanese police inspector who has been burning the candle on both ends with the reluctant dissolution of his marriage.  It's been two years since his daughter was almost killed, and while an unexplainable fluke occurrence miraculously saves her, she is withdrawn and not able to speak since.  With his career and family seemingly on the brink of falling apart, it seems the most inopportune time to be taking on the most baffling serial killings that have become the focus of the country, with the victims completely unrelated with the exception of having a strange substance found in their brains.  With science this perplexing, the Taiwanese law enforcement reaches out to a US FBI agent (Morse) to oversee the investigation, and together, the trail delves them deeper and deeper into the realm of the supernatural.

Double Vision, like most horror films, is merely a hybrid of many things you've seen before, although more intelligent than most that try the same direction.  Shadows of Se7en creep in once the clues begin to form, while the constant sinking into the realm of things which can't be explained hearkens to Ringu for its inspiration.  That's not to say that Double Vision is an unoriginal film, as there is too much thought and depth to the project to dismiss as "been there, done that."  It's an engrossing mystery, a satisfying cross-cultural police thriller, and a good family drama rolled into one interwoven horror package.

For all of its finer qualities, like most mystery-horror films, the ending becomes too turbulent to hold itself together.  Where the film had taken its time in developing the plot and themes, the ending seems rather in a hurry to get as much in as possible, and in its haste, confusion sets in for us in the audience.  The road ultimately travels into the realm of psychedelic surrealism, not a bad way to go so long as you don't leave the viewers behind in befuddlement.  Unfortunately, it does, but at least we're still intrigued enough to stick it out to see what happens at the end of the enigmatic nightmarish visions.

If you prefer your horror films to have more psychological tension and less shock-and-gore, Double Vision gets a solid recommendation for a film that gets under your skin.  It's a well-directed, nicely acted, and good looking film (reportedly the most expensive budget in a Taiwanese film to date) that delivers more than you'd expect, except a satisfying resolution.  For those who enjoy "The X-Files," it's a worthy companion to your collection.

Qwipster's rating:

2003 Vince Leo