by Chi-Leung Law, 2002, 100 mins. starring Leslie Cheung, Kar Yan
Lam, Waise Lee, Valerie Chowo and Norman Chu.
the creepy, hallucinogenic opening credits, you know from the get-go
that this film might actually be good. Caught somewhere between
a heavy melodrama and an all-out ghost story, Inner Senses
(aka Yee do hung gaan, aka Yi du kong jian)
asks the all-time supernatural question: Do ghosts exist?
Whether or not this films answers that question depends on the viewer,
and what part of the whole believing-in-ghosts side is he on. But
what I do know for sure, after seeing this movie, you will wonder
about the power of your own mind.
is said that the human brain is bigger than the universe. That’s
because we (humans) know more about the universe than we know about
our brains. After all, we only use about 10% percent of our brain
(5% if you’re George Bush ;-D), making the human brain a vast
wasteland of unexplored possibilities. Human evolution is still
an ongoing process, so there is no absolute knowledge as to what
our brains are capable of, especially with how we perceive the world.
It is this conflict that our two lead characters are faced with.
What constitutes reality when the brain is seemingly not sane?
can make something happen…”
Yan Cheung (played with restrained dramatics by Karena Lam) visits
her new apartment, shown to her by an overly exuberant landlord.
You take one look at the apartment and know ghostly goings-on will
take place. Yan takes the place, and the night she moves in, right
before she even unpacks all her stuff, she starts seeing things
in the hallway, hearing things in her bathroom, sees a wailing skinny
body in her living room. I almost expect her to scream “Come
on! At least let me get settled first before the haunting!!!”
Instead, she brushes it off as just another one of her “I
see dead people” experiences, although she is in no small
way unnerved by the experience.
a psychologist, Jim Law (played by the late Leslie Cheung) is giving
a lecture on how the brain collects information, and how it affects
our reality – even in our belief in ghosts. He stresses that
ghosts are merely “...useless information playing tricks
on our brains.” Clearly, this guy is our Scully. He receives
a message and a case file from one of his colleagues about a disturbed
young woman who might be a 'challenge' for him. And lo and behold
– Yan and Jim meet.
an initial session where the good doctor attempts to psychoanalyze
Yan, and she in turn tries to convince him of her lack of mental
instability, a clear connection is made between the two of them.
She confesses to seeing ghosts, although he merely deems it a side
effect of her depression brought about by divorced parents, a series
of bad relationships, and self-inflicted solitude. They do however
agree to meet again to try to get to the bottom of things.
at her apartment, her landlord invites Yan for dinner at his place.
She agrees reluctantly. During dinner, he tells Yan of a harrowing
story of how his wife and young son were lost in a landslide, all
the while keeping an unnerving smile on his face. This makes Yan
uncomfortable (naturally) so she excuses herself and goes back to
her apartment. Once there, strange things start to happen –
voices, footsteps, muddy body parts appearing in doorways, the works.
Sure enough, a full-blown haunting from muddy mom and kid brigade
occurs, coupled with a power failure, and BAM! you got yourself
a horror sequence…
calls the good doctor for assistance, he comes over, investigates,
and of course, finds nothing. Jim finally concludes that she’s
absolutely crackers, but decides there’s still hope. He reassures
her that everything’s all right, gives her a sedative, puts
her to sleep, and takes this opportunity to snoop through her stuff.
Clever… Here, we are treated to the first of a series of flashbacks,
that seemingly are about her. Brokenhearted at a young age, sorrow,
it all fits the profile of a hallucinating manic-depressive.
the doctor-patient relationship turns into something more, Doctor
Jim tries to delve deeper into her past, trying to unlock the mystery
that is her sickness. He asks about the suicide attempts, but she
claims having no memory of them. The wounds were there when she
woke up in the hospital. She on the other hand starts to see the
doctor as more than that. Jim begins to feel her becoming too close,
so he decides to break off the relationship, leading her to experience
yet another haunting from the now-famous muddy mom and kid brigade,
this time landing her in the hospital with slashed wrists. Jim must
now find a way to make Yan face her demons before it destroys her
Yan reaches recovery, Jim doesn’t feel the need for a connection
with her anymore, especially now that he has ghostly visions of
his own. A disfigured teenage girl shows up in the back seat of
his car, in his pool, in the car next to his. He starts to question
his sanity, even performing electroshock therapy on himself. Again.
He turns to science to explain his condition – stress related
work, high blood pressure, insomnia. Through his ordeal, he realizes
the one person who can keep him sane is Yan, so he rekindles the
friendship, which leads to romance.
in their seemingly happy relationship, the dark cloud of Jim’s
past still hovers over him, causing him to sleepwalk. One night,
Yan discovers him rearranging a series of documents, almost in a
trance, unaware of Yan’s presence. Night after night he does
the same thing, almost as if looking for something. Awoken by Yan
from his trance one night, Jim realizes everything, remembers his
past, and understands the danger that he and Yan are in. For now…
Jim’s past has manifested itself, and is threatening his and
Yan’s present existence...
a solid dramatic story full of emotional conflicts and human frailties
with all-out creepy imagery and fresh storytelling style, Inner
Senses succeeds because it does not exploit either genre. It
lies safely nestled in between the two, never goes overboard, and
doesn’t feel undercooked either.
surprised me most is how the film didn’t dictate to the viewer
what was ghostly and what was simply the product of a disturbed
mind. At the end of the film, you are sure of one thing –
one of them was really seeing ghosts. The other could have
just very well have been reaching out for compassion and love. These
two characters have built an existence based on solitude for one
reason or another. And with this solitude comes the price on loneliness
and depression. What seems real to one person is just crazy to another,
and the film leaves the viewer with finding out that option for
from the two leads are excellent. Karena Lam does a fine job of
portraying someone who is unraveling because of this “gift/curse”
she has. And one of Hong Kong’s greatest actors, Leslie Cheung,
is equally superb as the doctor who tries to keep it together, but
whose anger is all locked up inside like a dark memory.
anything, Inner Senses should be called a drama, with incidental
supernatural elements. There are themes we can all learn from here.
Our past helps us become who we are, but is in no way controlling
us. Our fears are only there to remind us of what we’re capable
of overcoming. And love, whether it be doomed or flourishing, is
all we need to give us strength.
Apple Rating for this film:
Entertainment value: 7/10
Do I See Dead People?: Yes, but I also snog 'em too...<uurgh!>
Another Movie In Very Much The Same Vein: The
Eye, but before you scream 'Plaaaagiarism!', Inner Senses
predates The Eye by about six months - go figure ;-)
Green Makeup: is this actually supposed to be scary post-1949?
Litres of Tomato Ketchup: surprisingly little - just a splat or
two here and there
You can download this wallpaper here: [800x600]
Wallpaper credit: Larry Burns, 2003
Snowblood Apple Filmographies
Kar Yan Lam
- as ever, a brilliant review at Sex Gore Mutants
- a great review at LoveHKFilm
- The Gline gave Inner Senses their Film of the Week
Award in February 2003, and accordingly here's an indepth review
with lots of images
- another two great reviews on the same page, with even more
the late Leslie Cheung has his own official memorial fan site -
just about everything you could possibly want to know about him
- ... and if you can't find it there, you'll certainly find it here
- an enormous Leslie Cheung fansite, Leslie's Pillow
- a profile of Kar Yan Lam, aka Karena Lam, with some images and
- Another long review, this time with a great image from the official
(almost-banned!) movie poster
- Akatomy's great review at Sancho Does Asia with some more pictures
- Inner Senses was shown at the 2003 Adelaide Film Festival:
there's a short review here, along with some biographical information
about Chi-Leung Law