The Precipice Game
China, 2016, colour, 2.35:1, 3-D, 93 mins.
Director: Wang Zao 王早.
Generic slasher movie set on a cruise ship has way more cons than pros.
Qingdao city, northern China, the present day, August. Veterinarian Liu Chenchen (Lin Xinru) is nagged by her mother (Wang Ji) over whether her latest boyfriend, Yu Bingchuan (Jin Shijia), is right for her. She defends him, and he then surprises her with two tickets he’s won for a Sky Line Adventure Cruise 天涯号游轮探险, on which the prize money is RMB1 million. Arriving on board, they find there are only four other passengers: bar owner Ye Qing (He Rundong), the obnoxious Liu Dapeng (Li Shangyi), his cowardly friend Chen Hongfan (Li Lin), and the glamorous Sun Meng (Gai Yuexi) who immediately starts coming on to Yu Bingchuan. The cruise ship’s MC (Shi Zhi) starts with a trial game, in which Yu Bingchuan is the winner. The real game then starts: the players have 12 hours to find some treasure, the clues are spread around the ship, and one player will be eliminated in every round. As the winner of the trial game, Yu Bingchuan is given the first clue – an old key. After the ship is plunged into darkness, the group faces an attack by flying circular saw-blades in which the MC is killed. The group finds its way to an amusement arcade, and Ye Qing and Yu Bingchuan go off to investigate. The MC’s body has disappeared and, after they follow the blood trail on deck, Ye Qing’s leg gets stuck in an anchor mechanism. Somehow he manages to escape. Meanwhile, Liu Dapeng is mysteriously burned alive. Next to die is Chen Hongfan, strung up by barbed wire. Yu Bingchuan freaks out, and Ye Qing assumes leadership of the tiny group. When the ship suddenly comes to a halt, they set off to find the engine room.
Six people find themselves hunted down on a cruise ship in The Precipice Game 魔轮, a cross between Lost in Panic Cruise 密室之不可靠岸 (2011) and any number of slasher movies that keeps promising more than it ever achieves. The film’s pros include brisk direction and editing that get everyone on the boat and out to sea within 10 minutes of the start; the cons include a generically routine script that must have taken at least a weekend to write, no sense of geography (and thus less tension) on the ship itself, and a final “explanation” that is so ridiculous that audiences should be entitled to a refund. Despite a conversion to 3-D, Precipice fell off the box-office cliff in China, grossing a puny RMB8 million.
The first feature of China-born, US-raised Wang Zao 王早, a graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Precipice marks a new low in the recent spate of horror films by Taiwan TV Drama Queen Lin Xinru 林心如 [Ruby Lin], 40. Blood Stained Shoes 绣花鞋 (2012), The Haunted House 楼 (2013), The House That Never Dies 京城81号 (2014) and Phantom of the Theatre 魔宫魅影 (2016) all showed good production values, even though the scripts were less classy and Lin’s performances were vacuous. In Precipice she starts off in livelier form but it doesn’t last long; and though she can still pass for much younger than she actually is, Precipice is basically a bargain-basement slasher movie in which her winsome charms are out of place and she doesn’t dominate the action in a top-billed way.
Generally a charming screen presence (Spicy Hot in Love 爱情麻辣烫之情定终身, 2016), Taiwan American actor/singer/model He Rundong 何润东 [Peter Ho], 41, looks equally out of place and spends most of the time hiding behind a silly goatee, lots of hair and an unsmiling expression while playing the proactive-hunk role. Of the others, Jin Shijia 金世佳 (the title character in A Fool 一个勺子, 2015) makes little impression as the wimpy boyfriend and model-turned-actress Gai Yuexi 盖玥希, 24, in her first film role, has little to do except look sexy in shorts. Widescreen imagery by Dutch-Chinese d.p. Joewi Verhoeven 中伟 has none of the subtlety of his work on Nezha 少女哪吒 (2014) but gets the job done with a generic slasher-movie look.
The original title means “Devil Cruise”.
Presented by Fundamental Films (CN).
Script: Zhou He, Doudou, Wang Ying. Photography: Joewi Verhoeven. Editing: Zhu Lin, Tang Hua. Music: Greg Yu. Production design: Guo Jing. Art direction: Zhang Li’na. Styling: Chen Xuebing. Sound: Xia Jiankui, Huang Zheng, Steve Miller. Action: Ou Chengwei. Special effects: Chen Baojian. Visual effects: Mei Wenyu (Beijing Tang Color Digital).
Cast: Lin Xinru [Ruby Lin] (Liu Chenchen), He Rundong [Peter Ho] (Ye Qing; Ye Tian), Jin Shijia (Yu Bingchuan), Gai Yuexi (Sun Meng), Li Lin (Chen Hongfan), Li Shangyi (Liu Dapeng), Wang Ji (Liu Chenchen’s mother), Shi Zhi (Chi Ban, MC), Liu Shijie (magician), Liu Jiage, Liu Jiarui (twin receptionists), Zhou Yuzhu, Zhao Yun (nurses), Wang Xinliang (driver).
Release: China, 1 Jul 2016.