Phantom of the Theatre – China, 2016

Phantom of the Theatre – original title: Mo Gong Mei Ying – is a 2016 Chinese horror feature film directed by Raymond Yip [Wai Man Yip] (The House That Never Does; Blood Stained Shoes; Till Death Do Us Laugh) from a screenplay written by Jingling Li, Manfred Wong and Mei Yuan Yang. The movie stars Ruby Lin, Tony Yo-ning Yang, Simon Yam and Gangshan Jing.

Plot:

1930s Shanghai: An allegedly haunted theatre is filled with the vengeful spirits of a tragically-trapped performance troupe murdered in a fire thirteen years ago.

Novice filmmaker Gu Wei Bang (Tony Yo-ning Yang) decides to shoot a supernatural love story in the theatre. He casts attractive starlet Si Fan (Ruby Lin) and himself in the lead male role…

Reviews [may contain spoilers]:

“In Phantom of the Theatre, gothic romance and Grand Guignol horror are diluted by Chinese censorship and flawed writing, but still executed with visually delightful and enjoyably macabre aplomb.” LP Hugo, Asian Film Strike

“Fans of cheesier Chinese films will certainly enjoy bits and pieces of what Phantom of the Theatre has to offer, but it’s a rough ride at times. It feels like a film that might earn its cult audience down the road, just on the sheer absurdity of some of its story and visual elements…” Matt Reifschneider, Blood Brothers

” …more of a romantic mystery with nods to The Phantom of the Opera, Jing Gang Shan’s scarred, cloaked villain lurking around and making use of chandeliers, secret passages and the like. The film does actually have quite a high body count, and Yip packs in plenty of thrills and ghoulish action, keeping things moving along briskly, if chaotically.” James Mudge, Eastern Kicks

“Loaded with spooky trappings, Phantom looks great. With its nostalgic heart and little on-screen violence to speak of, it would be an appropriate Halloween selection to view with older parents (but the scenes establishing the acrobats’ fate might be too intense for young children). Recommended for fans of tragic gothic romance and 1930s style…” Joe Bendel, J.B. Spins

“The Phantom is a relatively peripheral character. He is facially disfigured and wears a mask but much of the plotting in the second half involves he and the equivalent of Christine engaged in an elaborate scam […] Thus Phantom has now been contorted into not a romance but an elaborate revenge scheme that has almost nothing to do with the original story.” Richard Scheib, Moria

“Genre fans may be disappointed as the tone shifts from supernatural to Pirandellian to bittersweetly romantic. But the carefully stylized performances by Lin and Yang go a long way toward making the transitions smooth and, in the final scenes, surprisingly satisfying.” Joe Leydon, Variety

“Cecil Cheng’s visual effects are truly a highlight of the film, showcasing the apparent ghosts of the doomed acrobatic troupe whom now plague the theater. However, the titular phantom is actually a human and when their identity is revealed, Cheng did quite a nice job with the make-up effects of this phantom.” World Film Geek

“Filmed entirely on sets, Phantom glories in its own artifice. The movie is carried by sweeping widescreen images, dynamic camera movements, impressive special effects and a color scheme that contrasts icy blues against fiery reds. There may not be any actual ghosts in that theater, but the CGI is uncanny.” Mark Jenkins, The Washington Post

Cast and characters:

  • Ruby Lin … Meng Si Fan / Kong jin / Kong Lan
  • Tony Yo-ning Yang … Gu Wei Bang
  • Simon Yam … Gu Ming Shan
  • Gangshan Jing … Kong Shen (as Jing Gang Shen)
  • Huan Huang … Fei Li Si
  • Jiangguo Lin … Tang Shi Rao (as Lin Jiang Guo)
  • Ming Hu … The Adjutant
  • Natalie Yao Meng … Pan Ru Yu (as Natalie Meng)
  • Xudong Wu … Liu Kang (as Wu Xu Dong)
  • Patricia Ha … Wei Bang’s Mother
  • Zhi Han … The Butler
  • Zifeng Zhang … Kong Lan (young) (as Zi Feng Zhang)
  • Xiaochuan Li … Ma Ru Long (as Li Xiao Chuan)
  • Tian Jiao Luo … Xiao Mei
  • Chang Rui Du … Actress
  • Jia Xuan Li … Actress
  • Ching Li … Master of Ceremony
  • Yunwei He … Master of Ceremony (as He Yun Wei)
  • Yang Li … The Thief

Technical credits:

104 minutes

Release:

Phantom of the Theatre was released on DVD by Well Go USA on October 11, 2016. It is also available to rent or buy via Amazon Prime Video

More Chinese horror

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