Confinement delivers stillborn horror
95 minutes, opens on Thursday
The story: A new mother is tormented by much more than sleepless nights in Kelvin Tong’s home-grown horror.
Rebecca Lim stars in Confinement as 34-year-old Wang Si Ling, a first-time single mum recently installed in a vacant house where strange incidents occur upon the arrival of the confinement nanny played by Cynthia Koh.
She hears whispery voices and sees fleeting shadows. Her baby vanishes from the cot.
Especially bothersome is the haunting presence of a mysterious ghost girl with long black hair.
The two Mediacorp veterans are barely challenged in their joint feature lead debut.
Koh is consigned to cradling the newborn and cooking in the two-hander psychological chamber piece, while Lim prowls through extended silences looking tense when there is, in fact, no tension to the proceedings – whether or not they are Si Ling’s paranoid hallucinations as she begins her month of claustrophobic post-childbirth confinement.
Tong’s craftsmanship is assured, there is no fault there nor the contributions of his crew.
The local film-maker is an Asian horror aficionado, having written-directed the 2008 Hong Kong crime noir Rule #1 and the 2016 American co-production The Faith Of Anna Waters.
This $1.5 million Mandarin collaboration between Singapore production company Clover Films and China’s online entertainment platform iQiyi is most like Tong’s award-winning 2005 hit The Maid, in its lonely heroine isolated by the rules and superstitions of an ancient Chinese custom.
The scares are hackneyed – the limp-haired ghost girl has company in a phantom dog — and the textbook theme of Si Ling’s repressed childhood memories gets a third act exposition as breathlessly convoluted as the rest of the movie is torpid.
Hot take: The story is stillborn.