Shared Darkness

A Communal Life in Film, Examined

The Maid

Japanese and Korean horror films have been extremely
important in helping crack open the genre’s commercial vein over the last half
dozen years, playing arthouses in their original form and providing source
material for any number of lucrative remakes, from The Ring and The Grudge
franchises to Dark Water, Pulse and more. Further expanding the
influence of Asian imports, though, is certainly on the agenda of any number of
up-and-coming Asian and Eastern rim filmmakers
, as is the case with
writer-director Kelvin Tong (Moveable
, Eating Air).

Incorporating hearty elements of Chinese mysticism, Tong’s 2005
movie The Maid centers around naïve and innocent Rosa (exotic Italian-Filipino actress Alessandra
de Rossi
, of Small Voices), who leaves
her native Philippines
for Singapore in
order to work as a domestic servant. A non-believer in the supernatural world, Rosa
breaks the local rules of legend which dictate that during the seventh month of
the Chinese calendar, the gates of hell open and the dead walk the Earth
. Ignoring
these rules for handling the surge in spirits around her has, naturally, disastrous

A native hit, The Maid
has going for it larges swatches of impressively balanced mood in its more
spook-worthy set pieces, but the script itself seems a bit inert, and unmotivated
and insincere, really, in the fashion that it so earnestly and ardently pitches
. It’s the sort of lip service that kids pay to church, or the most craven politicians to air-quote family values. The Maid is Tong’s
first horror film, and it feels a bit like a lark — a genre exercise by an
interesting young filmmaker with other, more fervently held interests
, but
perhaps bound by limited opportunity to deliver a scary film. This makes the movie one of
herky-jerky stops and starts, though de Rossi holds sway with her mesmerizing
eyes and a rooted performance.

Indexed at a suggested retail price of $22.95, The Maid is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic
widescreen, along with Mandarin language Dolby digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 surround
sound audio tracks and, naturally, English subtitles. The DTS track in
particular makes nice use of low-key atmospherics, something American would-be
auteurs would be wise to pay attention to
. Alongside a brief production featurette
are the film’s original theatrical trailer as well as previews of other Tartan titles. B- (Movie) C+ (Disc)