Emerging film director Kelvin Shum from Hong Kong started his career in theater and short films in Australia and the United States. In 2019, his experimental short “We Shall Overcome” won multiple awards including Best Thriller and Best Director during its run in many film festivals around the world. Praised for its striking visuals, “Deliverance” (2022), a psychological thriller starring Summer Chan and Simon Yam, is his first feature-length film.
In “It Remains”, Shum and Chan are back in bringing us a supernatural horror adventure set in a secluded village on a remote island far away from the busy city. While mourning the death of his girlfriend, Zi Jie, a grief-stricken young waiter keeps getting flashbacks of the car accident that killed her. In an attempt to console him, his three friends take him to a small village hopping nature and the remoteness would enable him to find solace.
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After arriving at the island, they discover that their accommodation is nothing but a ruin. Since the boat won't be back for another few days, the four friends, now stranded, manage to find shelter in a run-down brewery, home to the only occupants of the village, Uncle Wah, a mysterious wine brewer and his daughter, Siu Ching. As darkness falls, they start to experience hallucinations and visions which relate to their secret past. Worst still, there is an evil ancient spirit out there that continues to haunt them everywhere they go.
Shum does not depend on just jump scares to tell his horror story, his lush visuals work wonderfully to create the necessary atmosphere and tension just fine. Interestingly, he also has a unique directing style which makes him stand out from his fellow Hong Kong filmmakers because of his education and experiences in the West. His use of color, smart lighting effects and the island locations all help to give this production a refreshing character seldom seen in other Asian films.
The captivating opening sequence with its intriguing camera movement nicely capture the mood and the life of Zi Jie. When the film switches location to the deserted village, the day scenes come alive with all sorts of eeriness. However by nightfall, the tension and dread that the characters experience seem to have doubled. Furthermore, he is able to blend in the gradual buildup of tension with a good use of selected sound effects to great effect.
Singer and dancer Anson Lo Hon Ting, one of the well known faces of the Cantopop boys band Mirror, appears to have improved and matured in his acting skill since his lighthearted lead appearance in “Showbiz Spy” (2021). Even though he seems to be moping around without a purpose here, he is right at home portraying the tortured waiter Zi Jie who is forever battling his hidden inner demon in his dreamy and dark world.
In general, all the supporting actors perform fairly well in expressing their individual hidden griefs respectively. Chu Pak Hong's solid portrayal of Hao Tian, a man haunted by the suicide of his mother, proves that he is one of the best character actors around. Elsewhere, Wu Zhao Xuan, who plays the albino friend Jia Hao who always gets picked on, is just as good at expressing his struggles with self-confidence. But it is Kwok Chui Yi who stands out as the associate friend Shenpo (a kind of shaman) who feels guilty about her aborted child, and her performance is indeed thoughtful and touching.
Shaw Brothers veteran David Chiang totally steals the show as the domineering village wine brewer, Uncle Wah. Chiang's character actually plays an important part in unlocking all the menacing events that haunt and change the whole island. Furthermore, he is pretty handy with his cleaver, a nice little throwback to his action days. In a role that is more sinister but with less dialogue, Summer Chan returns to co-star with Lo and the two share a plausible screen chemistry throughout.
Loosely translated as “Brewing Soul”, the Chinese title has more impact and is much better suited in describing the essence of this film's plot since it slowly reveals both Uncle Wah's and the island's backstories towards the end. The second half of the movie really shines too, as Shum lets loose his visual style into shadowy but horrified and well designed sequences. “It Remains” is far from perfect and the script could certainly be much better but its cinematography is indeed faultless. Besides, it is a great vehicle to further the film career of one popular boy band member and satisfy his fans.