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Nick Cheung plays a streetwise exorcist who becomes an overnight sensation when his extraordinary exorcisms are recorded and go viral on the internet. However, this attracts not only the attention from the media but also creatures from the underworld.Written by
Charming, Humorous, Touching and Cute; Not Your Typical Ghost Film
Keeper of Darkness makes fun of Korean drama on more than one occasion. This is both relevant and ironic, considering the film's often melodramatic, poignant, and at times, humorous script, bears a striking similarity. It would be folly to think the filmmakers are unaware of this, for actor/director Nick Cheung fully embraces this to craft a frequently entertaining, edge of your seat narrative, which combines themes of love, loyalty and the supernatural, and though there's a lot going on, Cheung and his great supporting cast superbly pull this off.
Fatt (the always entertaining Cheung) is a white haired, street smart exorcist, who, with the help of assistant Ah-Chung (Louis Cheung) and his connections with a gang element, assists the city of its spiritual concerns. Though Fatt could never be described as anti-social, his strongest relationship is with Cherr (the adorable Amber Kuo), a ghost who inhabits his home. The characterisation applied to both these leads is fantastic; the story of how they met being developed over the course of the film. However, the same cannot be said for the other characters, who, by the end of the feature, feel greatly underdeveloped, burning questions about them left unanswered.
When Fatt's most recent exorcism makes its way online, journalist Zi-Ling (Sisley Choi) makes it her mission to interview him. Never does she suspect that Fatt would refuse her. Zi-Ling's determination propels her further into the realm of the supernatural, and predictably, into trouble. Running afoul of some ghosts of her own, Fatt finds himself having to help her, while investigating the deaths of fellow mediums and exorcists at the hands of violent spectre Hark (Shi Yanneng). Reasons for Hark's malevolence are explored during the narrative, though the film's attempts to have him seem sympathetic are equally powerful.
With the exception of a couple scenes, the special effects are superb, and really drag you into the world that Keeper of Darkness creates. The only problem is that the world is not always given the depth it deserves. There are moments when Fatt is required, much like John Constantine, to cross over to the other side. These fleeting moments are incredible, and it's a shame these moments are not capitalised on. Moreover, though this is a ghost film, it could never truly qualify as 'horror'. If Fatt using chickens and fireworks to frighten a ghost away is not ridiculously comedic enough, the playfulness of the first ghosts we encounter removes any sense of terror. From selfish ghosts, to the more needy variety, the film creates a deep seeded sympathy for the spiritual realm, while also exploring how people become ghosts in the first place. This is not to say Keeper of Darkness is not without its suspense, the constant danger faced by the characters making us genuinely feel concern.
Unlike other films that clearly introduce the leads and the conflict in the first few frames, Keeper of Darkness takes the rulebook on typical narrative structure and throws it out the window in exchange for something more random. The opening scene sees a young Fatt and his mother (Karena Lam) with zero context, following this up with another random sequence, while it isn't until much later into the film that we are introduced to Cherr, despite her having such a pivotal role.
Though sporadic, while also juggling multiple genres and plots, the film consistently works. The film is similar, tonally, jumping from moments of in your face action, to sweeping emotional sequences. The feature is not without its predictability, but from the first scene until its poignant finish, this never gets in the way. From my experience, Keeper of Darkness is a difficult film to find, and though it's not scary enough to grace our screens come Halloween, its charm, sense of humour and occasional thrills makes for (despite been about ghosts) lively entertainment.
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