A Haunted-House Lark Gone Fetid

The J-horror jones continues to spread like a virus across the continent's less experienced film industries; this Taiwanese creeper, directed by first-timer Leste Chen, is an old-fashioned haunted-house lark gone fetid. Every trick in the genre book is used and used again—a young slacker inherits a decaying family estate, moves in, people start appearing and disappearing and dying—but Chen's film has a pungent visual palette of moldy greens and putrefying umbers, and the use of shadow, light, and rot is spellbinding. The real estate in question—a monster Taipei mansion heralding from the days of the Chinese occupation—is the strongest character, a musty maze of secret attics, water damage, and weathered ornamentation. Chen doesn't skimp on the backstory either, concocting possibly the most appalling dynastical-secret scenario in the genre.

 
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