They Wait (film, 2009)


A review from Death Ray #18.

2007/99mins/15

TWO AND A HALF STARS

Director: Ernie Barbarash

Writer: Trevor Markwart, Carl Bessai, Doug Taylor

Starring: Jaime King, Terry Chen, Pei-Pei Cheng, Henry O, Regan Oey

Predictable horror made almost engaging by the inclusion of cultural collision, but also mostly racist.

Canada! Land of trees, Dan Ackroyd, French colonists and evil Chinese immigrants! What?! Hang on, we’re pretty sure that’s not what the movie intended to say, but it wanders dangerously close, especially when we’re treated to a gaggle of Chinese septuagenarians being wicked in a disused factory.

Sarah Sei (Jaime King) by dint of marrying second-generation Chinese Jason, finds herself and her son menaced by the ghosts of those folks her in-laws abused in their sweatshop (yes, they had a sweatshop). If that doesn’t make the Sei clan dastardly enough, they’ve been milking honest Canadian black bears of their bile, chopping their paws off and sending the bits back to their heathen motherland in other people’s coffins! Why, Fu Manchu had nothing on the denizens of Vancouver’s Chinatown.

There are many Chinese people all over the world and, like folks of all stripes, a few of them probably aren’t very nice. Some of them may even be ghosts, but I reckon what makes this film borderline offensive is that Jaime King is white, blonde and scared, whereas the majority of the Chinese are portrayed as inscrutable criminals. Even Jason (Terry Chen), Jaime’s husband, is a workaholic. At best they are, like Henry O’s pharmacist, merely mysterious, for which read scary – they have creepy rituals, live in creepy houses, and run creepy shops with jars full of what look suspiciously like tiger cocks and dolphin noses.

There might be some kind of subtext about becoming divorced from your roots here somewhere, and there is one very good scare. But, overall, They Wait is a lost opportunity. The clash of cultures theme could have made the film’s passable ghost story particularly engaging, but sadly it chooses parody and stereotype instead.

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