Hong Kong Digital is sponsored by ...
Please see the Hong Kong Digital home page for a special offer from Poker Industries to Hong Kong Digital readers.

December 24th, 2001 Issue #88

Hong Kong Digital is a recurring series of movie reviews by John Charles -- associate editor / film reviewer for Video Watchdog magazine and the author of The Hong Kong Filmography.

Horror Hotline ... Big Head Monster
(2001; Mei Ah Film Production Co. / Brilliant Idea Group)

Cover art courtesy Mei Ah.

A Masterpiece
Highly Recommended
Very Good
Marginal Recommendation
Not Recommended
Definitely Not Recommended

Cantonese: Hung bo yit sin ji dai tau gwai ying
Mandarin: Kong bu re xian zhi da tou guai ying
English: Horror Hotline: Big Head Strange Baby


It was not enough to simply have the year's silliest title, this Mei Ah production also had to boast the year's silliest premise: several people join together to learn the truth about a terrifying, near-mythical creature called...The Big Head Baby (uh-huh). On top of that, the movie actually has the nerve to present its absurd storyline with the utmost seriousness, offering no comedy relief of any kind. In spite of these seemingly major debits, HORROR HOTLINE turns out to be surprisingly creepy and involving, thanks to careful direction by talented newcomer Bob Cheang Pou-soi (DIAMOND HILL), and commendable performances. In fact, the movie is so much better than expected, one ends up doubly disappointed when it resorts to an oblique and unsatisfying conclusion copied from a recent American horror hit.

Francis Ng Chun-yu. Image courtesy Mei Ah.

PURPLE STORM's Josie Ho Chiu-yee stars as a bilingual American TV reporter in HK to do a segment on "Horror Hotline," a popular radio call-in show produced by Francis Ng Chun-yu. One evening, a caller tells of how he was terrified in 1963 by The Baby, leading to a rash (pun intended, deal with it) of reports from other listeners. After a strange occurrence during the next broadcast, one of Ho's crew goes missing and the video footage reveals that someone else was present in the booth besides the program's two hosts. Ho and Ng learn that a mutant infant (with a gigantic head, several eyes, and one mean disposition) was born in HK during the early 60s and that several deaths soon followed. Further unfathomable phenomenon leave the reporter obsessed with discovering the full story behind what has happened. Ng's wife (Niki Chow Lai-kei), meanwhile, is apparently somehow a part of it all.

Josie Ho Chiu-yee. Image courtesy Mei Ah.

Niki Chow Lai-kei. Image courtesy Mei Ah.

Many Japanese horror films leave plot elements and events unexplained while still managing to be cogent; HORROR HOTLINE tries this approach but is fatally undone by its conclusion, which is not ambiguous, just a lazy cheat. After all of the inventive spookiness that precedes it, one cannot help but wonder if this is the fault of co-producer Joe Ma Wai-ho, who had previously tried to impose an inferior ending on Ringo Lam Ling-tung's VICTIM. Whatever the case may be, HORROR HOTLINE remains worth catching as it is one of the few HK horror films in years that comes close to being genuinely frightening. It is also one of the subtlest, only a smattering of blood and gore, and its monstrous title character presented almost solely via suggestion. Sam Lee Chan-sam (as a hospital patient left catatonic by an encounter with the baby from hell), Michelle Zhang Jiajia, and Edmond Poon Siu-chung co-star.

Sam Lee Chan-Sam. Image courtesy Mei Ah.

DVD Specs:

Mei Ah #DVD-455
Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.1
Sync Sound Cantonese and Dubbed Mandarin Language Tracks
Optional Subtitles In English and Chinese (Traditional or Simplified)
9 Chapters Illustrated In the Menu With Stills
Letterboxed (1.85:1)
Coded for ALL Regions
89 Minutes
Contains mild gore and horror imagery

DVD menu courtesy Mei Ah.

Film Board Ratings and Consumer Advice

Hong Kong: IIB


This is a nice transfer, boasting a well-detailed image and deep blacks. While not razor sharp, the contrasts are decent, considering the use of low light levels in many set-ups. Horror films benefit enormously from careful sound mixes and the one here is terrific, with an enveloping presence and plentiful stereo separation effects for atmosphere (including some of the eeriest foley work ever heard in a HK genre film). Unfortunately, there is a 48 second sound dropout on both the 5.1 and 2.1 Cantonese tracks that comes at a very inopportune moment; the Mandarin options (which present the film entirely in that language) are unaffected. The disc includes two endings. At approximately 82 minutes into the movie (there is no time coding), a programmed pause occurs, allowing the viewer to choose either the theatrical ending or an alternate coda (in fullscreen) called "Day of the Dead." Unfortunately, the latter turns out to be in the exact same vein and is no more effective. Each finale can also be accessed separately through the menu. The main extra is an untranslated 21 minute "Making Of..." program that opens with the theatrical trailer and includes interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. An additional trailer for UNITED WE STAND, AND SWIM can be accessed in the Best Buy section.

Josie Ho. Image courtesy Mei Ah.

HORROR HOTLINE is available at Poker Industries.

Click here for more information about The Hong Kong Filmography

Copyright © John Charles 2000, 2001. All Rights Reserved.
E-mail: mail@dighkmovies.com

Hong Kong Digital is presented in association with Hong Kong Entertainment News In Review