Home > Film > Sleepwalker or Meng you (2011)

Sleepwalker or Meng you (2011)

An author or filmmaker makes a living by involving us in a story, hoping we might experience vicariously the same emotions we read about or see on the screen. In an adventure or thriller, we might spend a short time imagining we’re a secret agent or an ace detective. Romance gives us the chance to fantasise about the possibility of success in a relationship. And horror. . . well horror is a somewhat elusive quality. It’s not simple fear although characters may be terrified. There may be elements that shock and even disgust us giving the more general opportunity to observe and to some extent empathise with a range of emotional responses at the extreme of the human experience. In part, this will be irrational, either because one or more of the character is not completely sane or because what happens defies rational explanation, i.e. it’s supernatural. For these purposes, let’s distinguish two horror subtypes.

 

Psychological horror tends to focus on the mind of the primary character. This is our point of view so, if that character is less than sane, what we read about or see will reflect that. This is the world of the unreliable narrator and, at some point, we will be allowed to see something of the reality around this person. The omniscient author or scriptwriter often supplies a rational explanation for what has been going on. Alternatively, we have supernatural horror where the key events are not explicable in terms of modern science. So if ghosts or more monstrous creatures appear and apparently interact with humans, we are expected to suspend disbelief and accept the human’s response to the unknown. In this subtype, it’s usually better not to describe or show the creatures with any degree of detail. Our own subconscious is capable of being far more creative than CGI when the primal emotion of fear is involved. So a figure seen vaguely in the shadows can become the thing we fear the most. An animated drawing simply remains a clever piece of work.

Angelica Lee being troubled by dreams

 

My sixpenneth says no good ever comes from mixing the subtypes. If something has a rational explanation, that’s how you play it. But if there’s a real supernatural element, there’s no sense in hinting. You have to lay it out clearly for all to see. Anything less than full commitment leaves the plot inconclusive and unsatisfying. All of which leads me to Sleepwalker or Meng you, directed by Oxide Pang Chun. I suspect this could have been a good film but whether it’s just bad writing or interference from the Chinese filmmaking industry, we’ve ended up with something lumbering and incoherent that can’t make up its mind what it’s about.

 

In theory, this should be easy. We have a woman Yi (Angelica Lee) whose daughter was kidnapped. Even though the ransom was paid, the girl was found dead, buried in the woods. This left her traumatised. Although she continues to function as a small-scale quality dress manufacturer, she’s become fixated by a recurrent dream and then discovers she’s sleepwalking. In a parallel story, Peggy (Charlie Yeung) has also had her child kidnapped, albeit more recently. Her sister, Sergeant Au (Huo Siyan) is the police officer in charge of the investigation. They have trust issues. If we had stopped here, we would have had the makings of a taut police procedural in which Sergeant Au ties the new case to the cold case and tracks down the kidnapper/killer. But nothing is clearly signed.

Director Oxide Pang Chun with Angelica Lee, Huo Siyan, Charlie Yeung and Li Zonghan

 

We have a helpful client Eric (Li Zong Han) who consistently gives Yi work and finds a psychiatrist when he learns of the dream. However, the police become very interested in Yi when her ex-husband is reported missing. Can people kill while sleeping? Yes, there are well-documented cases. So Yi’s own attempts to verify whether she is sleepwalking represent the most interesting part of the film. Unfortunately, the police investigation triggers some memories of the earlier kidnap and, in a confused state, Yi makes an abortive attempt to encourage a girl to leave a local park with her. Needless to say, this girl’s parents are on the job but, despite a crowd gathering, no-one calls the police. That’s Hong Kong for you. So there’s a reasonably coherent attempt to pitch this as a psychological thriller with a mother having psychotic episodes, confusing dreams with reality, and so on, except it all comes to nothing because of the supernatural element.

 

I don’t mind stories in which an innocent victim shares dreams or has telepathic links with a killer. Played properly, this can be fascinating and offer real help to sceptical detectives. But, by the time we get the the actual killer (Kent Cheng) all the momentum has been lost. What should have happened is that Yi learns where the body is buried because she sees the site in the dreams she shares with the killer. When the killer recognises someone is “looking over his shoulder”, he moves the body and then starts to track down this supernatural spy. Except the actual plot fails to offer any explanation of how Yi knows where to dig for the body or can offer a description of the killer — more likely to be precognition at this stage. The hypnotist with a wife in a coma who comes to extract more information from Yi is another of these useless subplots adding nothing to the dramatic structure of the whole. His gestures at expertise on the psychology involved are laughable.

 

So the result is very disappointing. Angelica Lee is completely wasted in a script with no coherence or logic. Indeed, there are times when I passed so far beyond the boredom threshold I seriously considered walking out. Many of those around me were catching up on their emails and smsing using all the latest handheld gadgetry. Although the ending does manage to avoid being completely mawkish as the mothers find some peace of mind in the capture of their children’s killer, I can’t honestly say Sleepwalker or Meng you has any real redeeming features.

 

Other films directed by Danny or Oxide Pang:
Forest of Death or Sum yeun (2007)
Storm Warriors or Fung wan II (2009)

 

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