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Original Title:
Gui Ji

Hong Kong 2007

Horror, Thriller

Xavier Lee Pak Tat

Derek Tsang
Leila Tong Ling
Terence Yin
Wayne Lai
Raymond Wong
Jo Kuk
Susan Tse

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Dead Air

Story: Rock (Derek Tsang) is the director of a cheap TV show that is soon cancelled because of bad audience rating. He forgot the planned vacation with his girlfriend, his mother he had to send to a rest home because of money problems and so he drowns his pain in alcohol. On his way home he hits a tree, though. However, this wasn't any normal accident. The ghost of the recently deceased Tincy (Tong Ling) called him so that he could save the baby she delivered next to a road. Rock informs the police and flees the scene. Out of gratitude Tincy helps the director to bring to life a new live show in which the candidates put their lives on the line in order to win a lot of money. The show is a success but the lead investigator (Wayne Lai) in the murder case of Tincy is looking into Rock's background since he thinks of him as the main suspect along with Chan (Raymond Wong), a make-up artist who has worked for Rock as well and has now gone missing without a trace. At the same time loan sharks are putting more and more pressure on Rock's best friend Au-yeung (Terence Yin) who has a lot of debts and therefore wants to compete in the new deadly TV show...

Review: What might sound like a critical and a bit exaggerated look on the media and the sensationalism of many TV shows is in fact just an uninspired and cheap horror flick that can offer a few good acting achievements but most of the time simply stays on the quality level of a TV movie. A movie that you come across late at night going through the channels and which just happens to offer just enough for you not to turn the TV off right away since there isn't anything better to be found. However, this surely doesn't make "Dead Air" a good movie, on the contrary, you should absolutely avoid this film because there is nothing that justifies to continue sitting in front of the screen. Better get intoxicated by watching the interesting less of your coffee. At least it's not as bad as watching paint getting dry. Well, almost...

Even at the start the amateurish camera work is irritating and a badly produced TV show doesn't make us expect anything good to come. In fact the show produced in the film is so bad that you have to think of it as a caricature and actually the director is really making fun of those so-called "supernatural" shows. Or maybe not? No, you can only read it that way, everything else would be too cruel... And then there is also the second show which beats all broadcast records. The producers play with the lives of their candidates regardless of the consequences. Nowadays, you just have to come up with something special if you want to excite your audience it seems. A media-critical look at the business - and that actually could have been appealing if the movie would have just done a more convincing job and wouldn't just put the topic aside when the horror shifts more into the film's focus.

However, you shouldn't fool yourself. There are no shocking moments during which you jump off the edge of your seat. How would that be possible with a ghost that is everything but scary, anyway? This also could have become the movie's strength. That is because for a change Tincy is a good ghost, it seems, that gives our protagonist a helping hand and is thankful for saving her baby. But naturally as things head towards the end there is also a more vicious ghost. But do we really have to be scared by an actor/actress that has some especially pale face thanks to make-up and is being illuminated by a green flashlight? A few contact lenses and a little bit of wind going through his/her hair also don't work wonders. On the contrary, it oftentimes just looks ridiculous and thus you can never take the film serious. If "Dead Air" hadn't taken itself serious either maybe this could have become amusing. But just maybe...

Things really get awkward when the successful show "Life on the Line" is introduced. A show that is shot so unbelievably amateurish, that it almost makes you puke, is supposed to beat all records? A show that has an effective running time of five minutes? Or maybe we were just shown the "highlights"?! If Hong Kong's television broadcasting really looks like this then you almost have to call our shows in the afternoon blockbuster cinema. And then there is a host that may look charismatic at first glance but obviously has learnt to act in an infomercial. But even worse are the two constantly grinning arm candies who are sometimes pretending to "act" as if scared and wave their pompons around. What all of this is exactly supposed to mean isn't clear. Are we supposed to laugh or cry? In any case, the movie doesn't just make fun of TV industry but also of itself. Sadly, latter one is an unintentional result.

The film's story itself actually revolves around the circumstances of Tincy's death, though. A straight crime story unfolds which maybe stands as the most thrilling part of the movie but can't win us over with any especially inventive twists. There may be a neat twist at the end but let's not talk about how many plot holes go hand in hand with it. The only positive thing to note about the movie are some appealing acting achievements, especially from Raymond Wong. Wayne Lai as the detective almost deserves something like sympathy but in the end all of the characters are drawn way too shallow for that. The technical adaption looks like TV show level including some cheap special effects. At the bottom line, there is almost nothing that can keep you engaged until the end except of the false hope that something might happen and we are actually in for a positive surprise before the credits. It is sufficient if one of us had made sure that this isn't the case, everyone else shoud just avoid "Dead Air".

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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