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Ab-Normal Beauty (aka Sei mong se jun) DVD Review

Written by Sham

DVD released by Tartan Films USA

Written and directed by Oxide Pang
2004, Region 1 (NTSC), 98 minutes, Not rated
DVD released on December 26th, 2005

Starring:

Race Wong as Jiney
Roseanne Wong as Jas
Anson Leung as Anson
Michelle Mee as Jiney’s Mum

Review:

Ab-Normal Beauty, the latest scare-show from Oxide Pang, who directed 2002’s The Eye alongside his twin brother Danny, is appropriately and abnormally beautiful

Much like The Eye, a perfect example of substance over style that managed to be effectively scary and moving, there’s much more style here than you might expect. That’s not to say the substance takes a backseat in this one. The movie spends a good amount of its runtime developing the characters, and this works extremely well. You rent a movie like Ab-Normal Beauty to see a violent horror film. I expected vicious torture and sadism, and I thought I was ready for it

However, when the violence kicked in and took a firm grip on the leading characters, I wanted it to end right then and there. In the midst of a great horror movie, I forgot these were only characters of Pang’s brilliant mind, and not real people of flesh and blood. Once the torture gets raw and the blood starts pouring, it doesn’t let up for one second

Jiney (Race Wong) is an art student who loves photography. She’s getting bored with the traditional nature shots her and her lover, Jas (Roseanne Wong), always take. But after Jiney witnesses a gruesome, and fatal, car accident, she finds herself intrigued and strangely stimulated. Jiney takes a picture of the corpse, and from then on, she becomes fascinated with taking pictures that represent death.

Jas discovers Jiney’s problem and becomes worried. She must help her stop this addiction before Jiney turns mad – and murderous. When Jiney goes clean, however, someone else begins taking pictures of dead people and sending them to her

But were the people in these photographs already dead, or has one photographer’s obsession gone too far

Real-life sisters Race and Roseanne Wong play the lovers, Jiney and Jas, and it’s not an uncanny casting decision in the least. It’s actually a smart one. Who better to have onscreen chemistry than two people who’ve spent their lives together? The sisters’ performances are powerful and effective, and, because they’ve each made you care about their characters, the climax hits twice as hard with its level of extreme brutality

Horror movies have a line and a bar in terms of cinema violence. They either cross the line or raise the bar. Sometimes they do both, and sometimes they do neither

It’s hard to say where Ab-Normal Beauty stands in that perspective. So much of its time is spent with the essence of great people overcoming intricate obstacles, rather than a twisted mind doing sick things. It takes its time with the story and is in no rush to harm or dispatch anyone involved. When someone does in fact kick the bucket, you’ll never forget that feeling.

And that’s what makes a great horror movie.

Video and Audio:

Ab-Normal Beauty’s most noticeable flaw is some macroblocking in the darker sequences, specifically the scenes that take place in Jiney’s “dark room” for processing pictures.

Other than these scenes, the colors are vibrant and striking. The blacks are appropriately dark, and the reds are never too murky or too bright.

Audio is presented in DTS Surround Sound 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. The score by Payont Permsith is outstanding. The movie makes good use of the backs and sides significantly, and the soundtrack never overpowers the dialogue. This is how a DVD is supposed to sound.

English and Spanish subtitles are available.

Special Features:

  • The Making of Ab-Normal Beauty
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Photo Gallery
  • Trailers

The first special feature on the disc is an 11-minute behind-the-scenes look, including small interviews with director Oxide Pang and performers Race Wong, Roseanne Wong, and Anson Leung. Pang talks a lot about how he tried to beautify the violent sequences, and also how he used a digital process called the telecine procedure that colorized the movie. The Wong sisters and Anson Leung discuss their characters and their experiences on set.

The seven deleted scenes are unnecessary and, for the most part, don’t need to be in the movie. They’re still a good watch, though.

The photo gallery has nine stills taken from the movie that are played over a digital camera.

Trailers for Ab-Normal Beauty, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Face, Spider Forest, Oldboy, and Hare the final special features.

Grades:

Movie: A strikingly beautiful and malignant horror film.
Video: Despite the macroblocking, the picture looks great.
Audio: A fantastic score and DTS track.
Features: The trailers and featurette are OK, but a commentary would’ve been nice.
Overall: A worthy addition to Tartan Asia Extreme’s ever-growing collection. Ab-Normal Beauty is an excellent horror film on a fine DVD.

Conclusion:

An intense and moving experience from beginning to end.

I absolutely loved it.

Want to comment on this review? You can leave one below or head over to the Horrortalk Review Forum.

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