LKMYNTS: Re-Cycle.

Man, I haven't done a Little Known Movies You Need To See in a long time. Anywho, I wasn't sure what exactly I was getting into when I started this movie. It had a synopsis similar to In The Mouth Of Madness and was directed by the typically hit-or-miss Pang Brothers. And even after the film started, I wasn't sure what I was getting into. I started it late last night and had to stop it about 30 minutes or so in because I was falling asleep (because of the time, not the movie), and I finished it this morning. And damn did I turn it off at the wrong (or right?) time last night.

The movie is about romance novelist Ting-Yin (Angelica Lee). After finishing a trilogy of best-selling romances, Ting-Yin wants to try her hand at horror/supernatural with her next book, Re-Cycle. But a mix of writer's block and her ex-boyfriend returning with news that he's getting a divorce with the woman he left her for originally keep her from really getting far with the book. But then, slowly, freaky things start happening to Ting-Yin as she comes to realize that the things she's writing, but then tossing away are coming back to haunt her. And soon she ends up in a completely different dimension full of "the abandoned" and needs to find a way home before this dimension destroys her completely. So she gets the help of a little girl and an old man to help her find her way to "the Transit," where she'll find her way home.

If you do research on this movie, one of the things you'll notice being said repeatedly is how it's so similar to 'such-and-such' movie/book. And that's true. But I also think that's one of the film's many brilliances. Whether intentional or not, the fact that the movie does feel so similar to other stories just ties in with the overall theme of abandoned (or 'recycled') things. Just in my personal opinion, and I've seen others agree, I felt the movie was most like the following: In The Mouth Of Madness, Silent Hill, Alice in Wonderland, MirrorMask, Dante's Inferno/What Dreams May Come (they're close enough to lump together), and Miyazaki's Spirited Away. Hell, I even found similarities to one of my own books, though I'm relatively sure they didn't take ideas from that.

Now I'm sure you're thinking "that's an odd mix of things." Well, it is. But it's because the movie is set up as one thing, but then twists into something else not too long after. The beginning starts off slow, building up as a supernatural horror movie. But around that 30/35 minute mark (right after I first turned it off to go to sleep), it changes completely. It still has some horror/scary elements, but it's more of a dark fantasy than a horror film. Ting-Yin's journey through the world of the abandoned is harrowing, scary, imaginative, and beautiful all at the same time. I loved all the little places she visits, but one of my favorite was like a live-action version of a scene from Spirited Away (though I'm sure it's from an Asian mythology). The little girl must guide Ting-Yin over a bridge riddled with the walking dead/spirits/abandoned/whatever, and Ting-Yin has to hold her breath as they slowly make their way across, or else she'll be noticed as an outsider... not a good thing.

Besides its obvious imagination, one of the best things about the movie is its beauty. And this movie is beautiful (in more ways than one). Visually, this film is utterly stunning. There are the more obvious stunning visuals that most will pick up on, but there's little nuances that the cinematically trained eye might pick up, as well. I just couldn't go on more about the film's visuals. Honestly, I was mostly afraid about the visuals (I saw a screencap on the back of the DVD box in the store... and out of context, it didn't strike me as stunning. In the film, however...). But, as I've said, they were amazing.

I can't say everything is positive about the film, though. It does have a few downsides. For instance, the first half of the movie is a bit slow and confusing. Even after Ting-Yin gets to the parallel world, it takes her a while before she meets anybody to tell her what's going on. So it's just kind of "throw in a scene, have a scare, she gets chased." Rinse, repeat. Though that really only goes on for about 10-15 minutes, I'd say. And it really only gets monotonous right before it stops doing it, so that's good. And although it does this, I still wished that there would have been more time spent in the fantasy world. I can't say the movie is poorly paced, but I would have liked it to have a few more 'down time' spots with some character/relationship building between Ting-Yin and the little girl. Instead, it kinda goes from major scene to major scene with maybe one brief interlude. Because as is, the ending of the film is the only place that really makes the characters a little more well-rounded. Otherwise, they're relatively flat.

Another issue for some people, though not me, is that the movie might become a bit too preachy. I don't want to say on what subject, because I think it should be a surprise, but I've seen plenty of things written about the film and how it's too preachy or whatever. Honestly, I don't think it is. I feel that the movie handled the subject very well, and people who get offended by it are too tightly wound to begin with. Don't get me wrong, it is a bit shocking at first, but it makes perfect sense in the realm of the story.

And even if you don't like that, how can you not love the ending? I don't want to touch on the ending too much, because I don't want to spoil anything, but I felt the ending was equally brilliant and ambiguous, leaving things up to interpretation.

Overall, the film isn't perfect (it could have used a bit better character development), but the Pang Brothers make a visual and atmospheric masterpiece. There really isn't that much of a story, but the film is more of an allegory, and allegories don't need to have fully coherent stories to be brilliant. I was going to give a literary example here, but then I realized that the example I was going to use deals with the exact same issue as the film, so any of you who knew the story could instantly pick up on the issue... I try to avoid major spoilers (for good films) at all costs. I really recommend the film.

A Keanu 'Whoa'

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