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Dearest Sister

I see dead Asian people: sexual politics, colonialism, a blind girl and ghosts that know the lottery numbers - stick it all in the large gumbo of Southeast Asian horror and watch it simmer - the film is part of the BFI London Film Festival that starts this week

This sounds like a very promising horror movie loaded with social commentary. Mattie Do is the first female director of a Lao feature film. Her debut Chanthaly is also the first horror film written and directed entirely in Laos. In her second feature Dearest Sister, Do employs horror to comment on gender roles, the allure of material wealth, family allegiances and colonial relations with Europe, in a very ambitious project for her country’s cinema.

A countryside girl moves to the city in order to live as her rich cousin’s companion. Her cousin is quickly losing her sight and occasionally seeing very apparitions. She has a doting Estonian husband who will do everything in his power to save her vision, but his attitude towards the local culture is often arrogant and ambivalent. In fact, most characters in the movie seem to be morally-corrupted and easily engage in revengeful acts and petty money feuds. It remains to be seen whether the protagonist can remain integral and resist the broken system, particularly once very unusual spirits step into the picture.

Dearest Sister has most of the ingredients of an effective horror movie: creepy ghosts, violence, sex and punishment for betrayal or corrupt behaviour. The problem is that it doesn’t gel together. The script is too complex and disjointed, and it’s very difficult to follow the various layers of the plot. Sometimes it borders the ludicruous, with ghosts of yet-to-die people whispering winning lottery numbers. Also, the lukewarm acting makes the 100-minute experience a little laborious.

The somber, languid and taut pace films is enjoyable, even if it’s easy to get lost sometimes. There is little gore and climaxing in movie, which may come as a disappointment to more hardcore horror fans. Dearest Sister will not make you jump from your seat like the Hong Kong horror The Eye (Pang Brothers, 2002) – also about a blind girl who sees ghosts.

Dearest Sister is showing as part of the BFI London Film festival starting this week – click here for more information about the event. If you are looking for a more effective and nail-biting horror we recommend the Japanese Creepy (Kiyoshi Kurosawa), or for an emotional trip through the world spirits and occultism you should watch the Irish A Dark Song (Liam Gavin). Both films are part of the Festival, just click on the titles in order to accede to our exclusive reviews.

You can watch the trailer of Dearest Sister here:

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By Victor Fraga - 05-10-2016

Victor Fraga is a Brazilian born and London-based journalist and filmmaker with more than 20 years of involvement in the cinema industry and beyond. He is an LGBT writer, and describes himself as a di...

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