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DVD Review

DVD cover

They Wait


Starring: Terry Chen, Jaime King, Regan Oey and Pei-pei Cheng
RRP: £15.99
Certificate: 15
Available 09 February 2009

Sarah, Jason and their little boy Sammy travel from their current home in Shanhai back to North America to attend the funeral of Jason’s uncle. They arrive during the traditional Chinese month of the hungry ghost, when spirits walk among the living. Sammy immediately begins to experience frightening apparitions, and after a terrifying ‘vision’ of the past in a sealed off part of an old family factory where his uncle used to send the bones of Chinese people back home, he falls into a mysterious deteriorating coma which baffles the best medical minds. Sarah is approached by a pharmacist who has knowledge of the spirit world, and convinces her (Jason is more sceptical) that she needs to discover what the spirits want with her son before the last day of hungry ghost month and it’s too late to save him...

It’s not so prevalent that I would call it jumping on the bandwagon yet, but there is a definite trend with some recent horror films to attempt to emulate the East Asian (and in particular Japanese) supernatural horror films. They Wait gets away with it by possessesing a very strong underlying plot, in the same way that Waking the Dead uncovers a guilty secret from the past and brings it into the present.

There are elements of The Eye utilised here for the early spectral scenes, but the overall structure is quite similar to The Ring (the granddaddy of that sub-genre); hence we have a evil act from years before covered-up, a spirit making itself known, and in particular the strong sense of time running out. In The Ring it was being stuck on an island in a storm and the pressure of finding the well which had been built over, and in this film it’s Sarah being assumed insane at the deterioration of her son and being strapped down when she needs to be out getting things done (shades of Terminator 2 here, too).

I must say that "They Wait" is a terrible, cringe-worthy title reminiscent of a cheap 1950s B-movie; curious for a film which wants to be taken seriously. They Live worked for John Carpenter in the eighties because, although it made certain political statements about the American capitalist culture, it was written purposefully tongue-in-cheek.

Even the film tag line for this one reads “From the depths of Hell they will find you.” This line was obviously written by someone who knows nothing about the film it’s promoting. The DVD cover depicts Sarah holding Sammy, which says very little about the film apart from that a woman is protecting her son. So it’s unlikely to attract the interest of a casual shop purchaser. Which is a shame, because it really does deserve a lot more attention than it’s garnered thus far.

See, you thought I was going to condemn this one to the hilt, didn’t you. Go on, admit it... Anyway, although this is an American film and so has an English language soundtrack as opposed to subtitles, it does possess an inherently cultural aspect which can often further strengthen a movie (the same thing happened in the recently reviewed The Tattooist).

Here nearly all of the characters are Chinese, and the cover-up relates to something kept quiet by the community, which has more relevance when they’re not situated in their own cultural seat.

Whilst not quite in the league of the films it’s trying to emulate, it is extremely compelling viewing for those like myself who enjoy creepy supernatural horror. In fact there’s one particular scare in They Wait which so abrupt and unexpected that I almost had to be scraped from the ceiling - and I’m a seasoned, long-in-the-tooth horror fan.


Ty Power

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