J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Baby Blues: Devil Doll on a Gloomy Sunday

Known as the “Hungarian Suicide Song,” Rezső Seress’s “Gloomy Sunday” has become the stuff of urban legend, but the only suicide that can be directly linked to it was that of its songwriter.  That makes it quite an odd choice for a producer to update for the biggest star on his roster, but it was not entirely Hao’s idea. He had help from the devil doll left behind in his new home. The sinister ragamuffin will be a malevolent influence on Hao’s new family, especially his wife in Po-chih Leong’s Baby Blues (trailer here), which releases today on DVD and VOD from Well Go USA.

Hao and his pregnant wife Tian Qing have just purchased a spectacular new home for a veritable song. The only drawback seems to be the homeless guy camped across the street, who is always yelling spooky warnings. For some reason, they hardly notice him, but she finds the creepy doll utterly charming. Unfortunately, it seems he is a “Jimi doll,” who drove the previous owners to bad ends. Even though accidents mysteriously follow Hao’s reworked song, now known as “The Intruder,” the mega-popular Ying Lan digs its edginess. Everything seems to be going right for the couple, until it is time to deliver her twins. Adam will make it, but Jimmy will not. However, this leaves a vacuum for the Jimi doll to fill.

Of course, the doctors assure Hao his wife is simply suffering from postpartum depression and perhaps he is as well. Nonetheless, he and Tian Qing’s tomboy sister Trinket soon suspect something weirder is afoot. Eventually, they even start paying attention to the old cat’s jibber-jabbering.

Yes, Baby Blues owes an obvious “debt” to the Chucky franchise, but it actually has several additional supernatural hooks that often compete with each other. The “Gloomy Sunday” references are actually pretty clever and cool, while the recurring twin motif is rather creepy. Yet, all mixed together they collectively undermine what Poe called the “unity of effect.” There are also loose ends and blind alleys all over the place. Still, one would sort of like to see Keira Knightly and Adam Levine remake the film as “Can a Song End Your Life.”

Beyond the on-screen action, Baby Blues generated considerable interest as the first film co-starring real life couple Raymond Lam and Karena Ng. However, perhaps shrewdly, they do not share any romantic scenes as Hao and Trinket. Without question, Ng gets the better of the deal, proving well suited to the mettlesome sister. In contrast, Lam’s Hao is a bit wooden, saddled with the intuition of cold porridge. At least newcomer Janelle Sing goes nuts pretty convincingly, while Kate Tsui clearly enjoys preening through the film as Ying Lan.

Baby Blues is also the British-born, Los Angeles-based Leong’s first HK production in two decades. It is odd choice of project to lure him back, but it was probably a guaranteed money maker. There are indeed some surprisingly big names attached to this straight forward genre outing, including Irene Wan, who makes the most of her third act near-cameo.

As horror films go, Baby Blues is certainly presentable. Genre fans will appreciate the ways it tweaks various conventions, but the killer doll effects do not meet the industry standard. Leong does not have a particularly strong feel for the requisite mood either, but the veteran cast knuckles down and powers through. The result is a mish-mash, but it has its moments. For fans of HK horror, Baby Blues is now available on DVD, BluRay, and VOD from Well Go USA.

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