Review: THE GREAT HYPNOTIST 催眠大師 (2014) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Review: THE GREAT HYPNOTIST 催眠大師 (2014)

3.5 stars
THE GREAT HYPNOTIST may have not reaches to its fullest potential, but remains entertaining enough for its solid mix of characters-driven psychodrama and supernatural mystery.

Last time I saw Taiwanese director Leste Chen's movie was the 2011's movie called LOVE ON CREDIT (read my review here). It was a delightful Mainland romantic comedy that surprised me a lot with Lin Chi-Ling's amazing performance. Here, Chen returns to his horror roots (sort of, anyway) after his directorial debut in THE HEIRLOOM (2005) with THE GREAT HYPNOTIST. The result is a gripping, yet stylish psycho-horror mystery that blends with a high-concept premise of hypnosis element.


Dr. Xu Ruining (Xu Zheng) is a reputable hypnotherapist who believes that it's necessary to cure a patient by using any form of hypnosis, no matter how controversial they end up to be. After giving a lecture about hypnotism, his academic mentor, Professor Fang (Lu Zhong) wants him to take on a case involving a difficult patient named Ren Xiaoyan (Karen Mok). Apparently Ren has seen many psychiatrists before but none of them able to cure her condition where she claims she can "see dead people". When Ren finally shows up one day at Xu's clinic, Xu tries to know more about her personal background beginning with her foster parents until he puts her under hypnosis. Is Xu really has psychic powers to see dead people as she claims to be or she actually a good liar trying to deceive him?

The "is-she-or-is-she-not" whodunit is what makes THE GREAT HYPNOTIST such a mesmerizing experience that keeps you intrigued while guessing the possible outcome. Thanks to a sly screenplay by Ren Peng and tight direction by Leste Chen, the movie is particularly interesting, especially the way of hypnosis element is executed wisely throughout a series of psychological cat-and-mouse mind games between Xu Ruining and Ren Xiaoyan. Despite the fact that the movie is mostly set in a confined space of Xu's clinic, it hardly feels like a stagnant stage play but instead blessed with Charlie Lam's perfectly moody cinematography while the overall production design is equally top-notch.

Xu Zheng delivers a solid performance as the arrogant and overly-confident hypnotherapist Dr. Xu Ruining, while Karen Mok matches Xu's acting intensity with her layered yet soulful performance as the mysterious Ren Xiaoyan. Watching them trying to outwit and manipulate each other during the hypnotherapy session is both fun and exciting, and no doubt Xu Zheng and Karen Mok really succeed in luring the viewers into the depth of their characters.

The crafty opening scene which features a psychological thriller-like moment involving a frightened elder woman and a little young girl trying to escape from a mad woman before it later reveals as one of Dr. Xu Ruining's extraordinary hypnosis skill; and the climactic twist involving the "waking hypnosis" technique that manages to trick one of the characters.

While its labyrinth-like plot manages to keep the tension growing as the movie progresses further, Leste Chen has somehow lost his grip once the table has turned. Make no mistake, I found the twist (even though it obviously requires some suspension of disbelief) is very fascinating but it seems to me that Chen doesn't know how to wrap up the ending in a satisfying manner. Instead, the ending after the twist feels strangely anticlimactic.


Usually, I don't really like watching Mainland-based horror/thriller movie because of its strict censorship board but Leste Chen, as well as his talented cast and crew, manage to stretch their imagination creatively in THE GREAT HYPNOTIST. Even though it has its fair share of flaws, I'm really surprised with the outcome of this movie.

No comments: