Saturday, July 24, 2010

Seventh Moon

I’ve recently decided to make an effort to try to whittle down the stack of DVDs I’ve purchased over the years but never watched, just because it seems ridiculous to own so many unwatched flicks. Today, I picked Seventh Moon, a Ghost House production from 2008. I guess I learned there are reasons I don’t watch some movies.

Yul and Melissa (Tony Chiou and Amy Smart) are newlyweds honeymooning in China, partly so that Melissa can meet Yul’s relatives. He is a very American Chinese-American, to the point where he barely speaks Cantonese. Their visit coincides with the Seventh Moon festival, celebrating when the hungry dead rise on the seventh full moon of the year and kill anything living. An interesting holiday, to say the least. The couple has a great time, until their tour guide abandons them in the middle of night in a rural area. It seems the locals sacrifice outsiders to the dead so they won’t take any of their own people, and Yul and Melissa are this year’s guests of honor, and pretty soon the duo are on the run from pale, hairless creatures with hostile intentions.

This is essentially a zombie movie, at least in structure, with the living running from the hungry dead. There are several major flaws that fatally damage this effort, starting with the characters. With only two people trying to escape the walking corpses instead of the usual group, it is important the audience have some sort of rooting interest in their survival. However, Yul and Melissa’s dominant character trait seems to be going to be pieces in times of stress. They invariably panic and do the wrong thing at every opportunity, and show little initiative or common sense. Probably the height of their dimness is when a group of creepy black-clad people show up and give them something to drink. Everyone else on Earth would instantly realize the drinks were drugged, but not Yul and Melissa. They drink up, and are shocked when it turns out they’ve been roofied. Additionally, Melissa is written as one of those people who just can’t shut up, no matter what. They are several occasions where the two are trying to hide, but since she has to talk, the dead are able to find them easily.

The film’s biggest problem is a technical one. It fits in with several other recent films (Unearthed, Alien vs. Predator: Requiem, etc.) where the cameraman believes the almost complete absence of light makes a movie more spooky, when it really makes it confusing. This is a very dimly lit movie, with two key sequences occurring in complete blackness. Throw in the shaky handheld used to film the movie and a tendency for quick cuts, it is nearly impossible to tell what is going on. Remember this simple rule: FILM IS A VISUAL MEDIUM. If you aren’t going to show the audience anything, you might as well do mit as a radio play.

Although it clocks in at just 87 minutes, the movie felt at least 20 minutes too long. Basically, it was a good idea for a short film, stretched out by repetition. It was directed by Eduardo Sanchez, best known for The Blair Witch Project, which may explain his affection for handheld cinematography. He’s capable of better work than this, and I hope he’ll move on to it. Watch this one only if you like pale naked Chinese guys running through the night.

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