Friday, June 12, 2009

Troublesome Night: The A-Files (Hong Kong, 1999)

Troublesome Night: The A-Files is the oddly excessive title of the German release of Aau yeung liu 5 yue gwai tung hang, otherwise known in most non-Asian countries simply as Troublesome Night 5. What "The A-Files" should be is a mystery, but so it is often enough when foreign titles get translated.
Under whatever title, this DVD is yet another of a popular series of DVDs that collects and intermingles the tales of a likewise popular Hong Kong television show highly similar to any number of US “supernatural” TV programs such as The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits, but unlike the just mentioned Yankee productions, the three tales told in Troublesome Night: The A-Files are intermingled and tied together by characters that make reappearances within any given tale, if only in passing. (Note: Troublesome Night: The A-Files features three distinct if slightly related tales despite the commonly reported assumption that the DVD features only two.) The German edition, by the way, has no host.
Populated by faces that might be well-known within Hong Kong but are at most "familiar" to western fans of Asian flicks, the general level of production is that of low budget television—which in no way means that the series (or at least this installment of the series) is not enjoyable. But to judge a whole series of (to date) 19 multi-episode DVDs released between 1997 and 2003 by only one is a bit presumptuous, so this review will reserve its judgment to only Troublesome Night: The A-Files. That said, Troublesome Night: The A-Files is a nice flick and an easy way to pass an evening—with your kids, no less. OK, there is one or two scenes that you might have trouble explaining—like the scene involving the rape of a woman by a ghost—but none of the installments are particularly bloody or excessively graphic. In this regard, Troublesome Night: The A-Files is much more The Night Gallery than Tales from the Crypt, but not really as scary as either. OK, you might have to explain to your kid why the people have funny eyes and act so differently, but it gives you a good chance to explain how in different lands with different cultures, people look and act (and react) differently. Then again: not.
As mentioned before, Troublesome Night: The A-Files is not particularly scary, but it does offer some good (intentional) laughs and some discomfort—again, the (non-graphic) rape by a ghost—and minor tension. It really is horror lite, which is not always a bad thing. The film revolves around the basic situation of taxi drivers, and opens with an almost unnecessary scene of a most-featured character named Fat (Louis Koo) picking up a re-occurring ghost character (Lan Law) that ends with the establishment of Fat's gambling addiction and the introduction of various reoccurring characters.
The next and first "true" episode of Troublesome Night: The A-Files is purely comic in nature, and tells the tale of a driver that picks up a gang boss who has lost his hand, a fake ghost and (possibly) three real ghosts in succession. The second story returns to Fat, who is forced by the debts incurred due to his gambling to move into a new home with his family and who, in no short time, manages to get himself trapped in a deal with an evil spirit that initially brings him luck but ends in tragedy. Lastly, occurring some 10-15 years later, the last tale is about Fat’s son, who gets a job as a night guard in a high-rise built upon the very location where his father met his tragic end. Closure is preordained.

In short: Troublesome Night: The A-Files is hardly essential but oddly enjoyable and extremely engaging, enough so that one not only has fun but also actually wants to see more of the series. And, as such, Troublesome Night: The A-Files is a lot better than most of the crap out there. Give it a chance.

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