Mysterious Island 2
China, 2012, colour, 2.35:1, 93 mins.
Director: Zhong Jichang 钟继昌.
Unrelated follow-up to the surprise horror hit soon runs off the road.
Bangkok, the present day. Zhou Qing (Deng Jiajia) tells her psychiatrist (Liang Yunyi) how she has been having recurring nightmares of being hunted down by a female ghost and a killer lorry on Highway K61. After she disappears, her younger twin sister, Zhou Xi (Deng Jiajia), throws in her job in Shenzhen, China, and comes looking for her. She finds Zhou Qing’s house deserted, and full of horrific paintings and newspaper clippings about a murder spree. There she meets Zhou Qing’s boyfriend, taxi driver Zhang Lai (Chen Zhipeng), who is also looking for her. Zhou Xi receives a garbled call from her sister, saying she is on K61. Zhang Lai says the road, which is known as Death Highway because of the large number of casualties on it, is on a deserted offshore island, and the two of them set out to find Zhou Qing. En route, Zhang Lai explains that the house Zhou Qing was living in was the scene of the murder spree in the newspaper clippings. They stop to pick up Black Dragon King (Wei Yuhai), a Buddhist priest friend of Zhang Lai, and then enter R61. As they reach a car dump containing Zhou Qing’s car and a mysterious lorry, Zhou Xi starts sensing that her sister is nearby.
Unrelated in storyline or casting to the surprise hit of summer 2011, but put together by the same Mainland producer and Hong Kong director and key crew, Mysterious Island 2 孤岛惊魂2 features far more elaborate visual effects, a way thinner script, and a tiny cast led by Mainland actress Deng Jiajia 邓家佳 (horror Any Other Side 夜店诡谈, 2012; caper comedy Double Trouble 宝岛双雄, 2012) playing twin sisters and Taiwan singer-turned-actor Chen Zhipeng 陈志朋 (What Women Want 我知女人心, 2011), both of whom run from pillar to post with no visible means of plot support. The result scraped less than a fifth [RMB17 million] of the lucky original, making any continuation of a hoped-for horror franchise seem highly unlikely.
Things start promisingly, with a young Chinese woman in Thailand attacked by a crow, crashing her car, knocked down by an evil lorry, waking up in bed and thrown around a room – all in the first five minutes. Hopes still run high as her younger twin sister flies in to find her, meets her creepy boyfriend in a deserted house, and sets out with him to the accident-prone Highway R61 to find her. (R61 is on a “deserted island”, which is the only thing in common with the original survival movie.) However, as the script abandons any attempt at coherence, and the direction, jazzy camerawork and feverish editing follow suit, the only mystery about this Island is how it ever came to be thrown together in the first place.
In her first leading role, 29-year-old Deng Jiajia – who made her name in series 2 of the hit TV drama iPartment 爱情公寓 – spends most of the time screaming, looking at the camera with big round eyes, and asking her co-star “What’s going on?” There’s some variation in her playing of the twin sisters (and a few sexy bits early on) but not enough to get viewers involved in the plights of either. Chen, 41, looks either threatening or harried, and has even less to work with than Deng. The “ghostly” elements of the “plot” are hardly explained, and largely abandoned as the action becomes more hysterical. The effects track by sound designer Fang Yuan 方源 works overtime to build scares, more effectively in the first half-hour.
Presented by Zhujiang Film Group (CN), Bejing East Light Film (CN), Mei Ah Media (Beijing) (CN). Produced by Beijing East Light Film (CN).
Script: Fang Sixing. Photography: Chen Chuqiang. Editing: Chen Qihe [Chan Ki-hop]. Music: An Wei. Art direction: Lin Weishen. Costume design: Guo Lili. Sound: Fang Yuan. Action: Wei Yuhai. Special effects: He Guiguang. Visual effects: Li Junhua (Legendtoonland). Car stunts: Huang Chao.
Cast: Deng Jiajia (Zhou Qing; Zhou Xi), Chen Zhipeng (Zhang Lai, Zhou Qing’s boyfriend), Wei Yuhai (Black Dragon King), Gao Zhilie (lorry driver; evil lorry driver), Zhang Junjie (John, Zhou Qing’s ex), Liang Yunyi (psychiatrist), Zhou Yingxun (shop cashier), Chen Ying (journalist).
Release: China, 26 Jan 2013.
(Review originally published on Film Business Asia, 1 Apr 2013.)