Inner Senses (2002) / Horror-Thriller

MPAA Rated: Not rated, but I'd rate it R for disturbing images and gore
Running Time: 100 min.

Cast: Leslie Cheung, Karena Lam, Waise Lee, Valerie Chow, Norman Tsui
Director:  Bruce Law
Screenplay: Yeung Sin Ling

Review published May 15, 2003

There's only half of a good movie in INNER SENSES, the first half, in this Hong Kong version of THE SIXTH SENSE.  While it certainly lacks for originality, it does know its source material well-enough to know what made it effective, namely, a good sense of cold atmosphere amid the occasionally disturbing imagery.  It's not really a rip-off or a remake, as INNER SENSES is primarily concerned with whether ghosts are real, or whether they are internal projections of fears which people hallucinate.  The set-up works well, but as the main storyline shifts from one character to another, the quality of it also shifts along with it.

Karena Lam stars as Yan, a suicidal and depressed woman just moving into a large, but cheap, apartment, much to the relief of the anxious landlord.  He has a reason to be anxious because it seems that he knows it may be haunted, which would also explain the starling images and sounds that Yan witnesses from time to time.  Leslie Cheung (sadly, his final role) plays Jim P.L. Law, a psychiatrist who is well-versed in visions of apparitions and believes they all stem from stress and anxiety in the brain, rather than supernaturally occurring phenomena.  Law tries to break Yan of her visions by making her confronts the demons of her past, while also fending off feelings he has for Yan, who becomes dependent on him as the only stable force in her life.

With the combination of excellent atmospheric direction and quality acting, INNER SENSES is better than most Hong Kong fright flicks.  The script is also well-done, offering up smart dialogue and nice characterizations, with more substance than many other films in the genre usually offer up.  For the first 45 minutes or so, the tension is delivered effectively, and it's an interesting and thought-provoking semi-horror thriller.  However, the initial story is resolved about halfway through, only to be replaced by the story of Jim's visions, which aren't as interesting or compelling.  In fact, the last twenty minutes or so are particularly mediocre, with some rather unpleasant images which keep repeating themselves, and the weirdest choice of sound effects I've seen used for a ghost, sounding more like sound bytes often used for an old wooden door opening alternating with the creaking of an old shipping vessel.

INNER SENSES is a decent horror-thriller that doesn't quite live up to the promise it shows early on.  It's recommended for those who enjoy these sorts of somber psychological ghost tales, with an emphasis on atmosphere over gore.  Yet, the taut tension it initially creates so well unravels completely, making INNER SENSES rather senseless in the end.

Qwipster's rating:

2003 Vince Leo