Directed by Kelvin Tong
Distributed by Tartan Video
Tough luck, Lebanon! Eat dust, Kazakhstan! Singapore has become the newest third world country to make its big genre debut. That may not mean much to most, but it’s still cause for celebration: It’s not every day a nation pops its horror cherry.
The inevitable downside is that The Maid looks and feels like a debut film.
According to Chinese superstition, the gates of hell open in the seventh month of the lunar calendar, and spirits walk among the living for 30 days and nights. During this time residents perform prayers and rituals to drive the dead back. Of course, nobody bothers telling this to cute, unsuspecting Rosa (Alessandra de Rossi playing the doe-eyed Jessica Harper Suspiria role) who arrives from the Phillipines to work as a household maid. Unfortunately she does her job a bit too well, sweeping up the wrong piece of trash during the wrong ritual, thus opening up one huge paranormal can of worms.
From there, The Maid descends into your typical “I See Dead People” flick, borrowing heavily from the likes of Ju On, The Sixth Sense, and The Eye as Rosa encounters a series of predictable spook attacks. Writer/director Kelvin Tong is such a slave to formula it’s almost like he’s playing catch up by using every horror movie cliché at once. Telegraphed boo moments are accompanied by obnoxious musical stingers, and even non-horror fans will be able to stay one step ahead of the action.
Thankfully, the results are still watchable. On a technical level The Maid is pretty accomplished for a low budget film. The cinematography is gorgeous and gives the whole thing something resembling an atmosphere, which is more than can be said for many similar efforts. And despite the blatant unoriginality of the script, things pick up steam in the final ten minutes when the story throws one truly warped curve ball.
Tong shoots the film mostly in English, which is downright baffling since it’s obviously a second (… or third … or fourth) language. Our leading lady speaks well enough, but some of the supporting actors are so bad that even subtitle detractors (if you’re one, shame on you!) will find themselves wanting to put them on for reference. Unfortunately, Tartan Video’s DVD release only subs the few foreign language scenes, which will have viewers fumbling for the rewind button during certain lines of dialogue. Specs-wise, there isn’t much on the disc (we get a “making-of” television special and the usual gaggle of trailers), but the video and audio presentation is nonetheless superb.
Although competently made with a few stand-out moments, The Maid is a fairly dismissible ghost flick. Still, you have to give it props for trying. After all, you can’t swim the English Channel your first time in the water.
“The Making-of The Maid” featurette
2 out of 5