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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Koma
Koma
Tartan Video // R // March 8, 2005
List Price: $24.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by J. Doyle Wallis | posted March 4, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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Supernatural spooks and well dwelling, weed haired ghosties are still all the rage in Asian horror films and have found a lot of success at the US box office too. Going against the grain, Koma (2004), courtesy of Inner Senses director Law Chi Leung, isn't supernatural at all and relies more on the urban legend side of horror. While it does contain a pissed off creepy girl, she is not of the spiritual variety and her hairdo is very kempt.

Drunken bridesmaid Fung Ching (Angelica Lee- The Eye, Princess D) stumbles down a hotel hallway, then into a suite, and runs right into a poor girl who has just awoken in a tub fill of ice with her kidney removed. This turns out to be just one of a rash of such involuntary surgeries someone has been committing. Ching identifies a girl named Suen Ling (Karena Lam- Inner Senses, Heroic Duo) as being the only other person in the hallway.

As if suffering from renal failure didn't make the crime hit home with her enough, Ching soon finds out that Ling had an affair with her boyfriend, Wai (Andy Hui). The police cannot link Ling to the crime and the jealous accused kidney bandit begins to stalk and make threatening phone calls to Ching. Circumstances turn the two from rivals to buddies, but, is everything what it seems and who is this figure in the shadows removing organs from healthy young women?

I'd heard Koma was pretty fair, a decent little suspense pic teaming two of Asia's hotter young actresses. While Koma delivers a few good scares (I can think of at least two moments that have completely surprising shocks), the film is almost maddingly contrived. It is like the script was spat from some b-horror screenplay machine. Too may coincidences and formula tricks that lead to a very predicable scenario. The attempts at mystery, like the kidney theft killer's identity, are very half hearted- the list of possible suspects is very small, so when the person is revealed two thirds of the way in, it makes the rest of the film a breeze to figure out.

Atmospherically, the first sequence with the nameless victim waking in a tub and discovering the crudely patched wound shows some promise, including some trick shot, computer enhanced, camera work. Beyond that, it just has the same old standbys. Florescent lights, for instance. In a horror film, flickering fluorescent lights are a sure sign of trouble. In the real world, more than likely, flickering florescent lights mean you are in a Waffle House bathroom- which is a different kind of trouble. Another would be the ol' back against an empty window gag. Gee', do you think something is going to pop up in the window and scare the pants off someone? And, what cliched horror film would be complete without a "it was all a dream" nightmare sequence? There is also just some general silliness too, like one of our heroines being pathetically defeated by a sheet of hanging plastic.

The actresses do a fairly good job. Considering the weakness of the material they had to work with that is high praise. Angelica Lee's Ching can get a little grating and bratty, but her ultra thin frame and wide eyes really convey the psychical frailty of her character. Hell, she is as twiglike as an Olsen twin. Karena Lam has the angrier, more bitter, menacing role, but manages some pathos too. If I were Lee's agent, I'd stay away from future transplant horror pictures. One (The Eye) was apparently enough, so when the script for Follicle: the hair transplant horror movie arrives on your doorstep, turn it down.

The DVD: Tartan USA

Picture: Anamorphic Widescreen. The cinematography is pretty wonky. It utilizes a lot of wide lenses and squeezed frames, as well as some bright color palettes. I noticed some spots on the print, nothing too major, but a bit glaring and irksome for a print this new. Color details appear well rendered. Sharpness and contrast are in decent shape.

Sound: DTS, 5.1 Surround, or 2.0 Stereo Cantonese language options. English or Spanish subtitles. Pretty good mix, relatively crisp dialogue and good fx presentation. Worth mentioning is the score, which is so horror traditional it almost sounds like a parody. It has an eerie 70's sounding "La-la-la-la" female vocal, and some very oppressive orchestra poundings, screeching violins, and such overemphasizing the scare moments.

Extras: Photo Gallery– Tartan Release Trailers— "Making of" Featurette (15:28)— Director's Audio Commentary.

Conclusion: Well, for me, the film was built around too many cliches, and I found myself predicting nearly every twist and turn and not really caring too much. Still, at least it was a technically well shot film with some game lead actresses. For Asian horror fans, Tartan delivers a good transfer with a nice round of extras, making this worth a very casual purchase for die hards and a good weekend rental for most everyone else.

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