Genre: Thriller / Horror
Running Time: 85'
Karena Lam, Angelica Lee, Andy Hui
Story: An annoyingly noisy, drunk girl leaves a wedding party only to stumble upon a 'steal the kidney and run' victim. Instead of being cut up for her obnoxious ways, this broad becomes the lead character (her name is Ching). When sober, she's equally irritating, what with her pathetic whining about her illness (kidney failure) and uncontrollable bursts of anger. Then she's stalked by Ling (notice the rhyme there?), the main suspect in the kidney-case, who just happens to be her doctor-boyfriend's one night stand. But, is Ching stalked by Ling? Perhaps Ling means well? Oh, the suspense! Who will survive and how many kidneys will be left of them?
Review: The publicity for KOMA is based on the fame of its two female 'stars' whose faces are blown over posters and DVD covers as the film's chief draw. Both of them became famous for seeing ghosts: Angelica saw them after THE EYE operation, while Karena was helped (or cursed) by her INNER SENSES. Both of these films were ludicrously overrated: if you believed the hype that surrounded them, you'd bee fooled to expect at least something above average. While decently directed (at least as far as slick visuals pass for good filmmaking these days), they both suffer from unbearably shallow drama, uninvolving characters and infantile, unimaginative 'scares'. In short, they are both dull attempts of Hong Kong and Thailand cinema to jump the bandwagon of Japan's and Korea's serious horror, leaving the obligatory Chinese comic reliefs and action scenes behind them, and embracing 'drama'. Nice ambition – slightly undermined by the lack of any purpose more serious than a pure economic one. The end results are mere aping of the approach mastered by the modern Japanese and Korean horror, but – they were both immensely crowd-pleasing, and therefore commercial.
And now they are joined by KOMA, a new flick by Lawrence Cheng, the perpetrator of INNER NONSENSE. The supernatural paraphernalia is left behind, but what his screenwriter, Susan Chen, has come up with is an even more unimaginative affair. Basically, what you get is a silly and utterly contrived soap opera 'enriched' by even sillier exploitation of the trite urban legend (a laced drink from a stranger in a bar, after which you wake in a tub filled with ice: the opposite wall offers a friendly advice to 'Call the police if you want to live!', the mirror reveals a nasty cut on your side, and you realize you're one kidney short). The above-described situation is responsible for KOMA's single exceptional scene, and you get it in the very first 10 minutes. After that, you're left with characters you'd rather see as victims in some elaborate slasher horror than as people you're supposed to care about and fear for. What's worse, there's not even a decent villain to root for!
Let me spoil the movie for you – if a turd can spoiled, that is. In a surprising twist at the end, it is discovered that the villain is – Ling, who's been the main suspect all along. She was also the ONLY suspect! Susan Chen's amateurish script did not even bother to provide a red herring or two so as to create a half-decent whodunit. No, ladies and gentlemen: what you see in the very beginning is what you get in the end (unless you fall asleep by then). Let me tell you how amateurish the script is. In case you don't get the nuanced relationships between these people, you're helped by the dialogues along the lines of (and I quote here): 'I hate you.' 'Why?' 'I'm jealous!' For the more profound psychology, Ching & Ling (who, unconvincingly, become friends for a while) at one instance go to some pseudo-self-help-rebirthing-whatnot group, where they sit on the floor and follow the advice to 'look deep into each other's subconscious'. After approximately 6 seconds of meditation, they manage to see their innermost secrets, and spell them out to the inattentive viewer: Ching is insecure because of her illness, while Ling is lonely because her mommy is in a coma. Somewhere in the background of it all is Ching's boyfriend, a zero character who's barely more than a plot device to have Ching & Ling meet and interrelate. This questionable type oscillates between faithfully protecting his sick girlfriend Ching and violently banging Ling (who's unable to pay her mom's hospital bills but the kind doc is willing to oblige); at least we're treated to his nice demise (involving an unexpected scalpel in the eye), which is more than could be said for the hateful leading ladies.
KOMA's inconsistencies, contrivances, strains of logic, suspensions of disbelief, psycho-babble and plot holes would require an essay to enumerate and analyze – but they're not worth the trouble. The despise it has for its audience's intelligence is most obvious in the following exchange. Ching: 'Did the woman have one kidney removed, or two?' The police inspector: 'One. Is there any difference?' Ching: 'With one left she won't die.' The police inspector has a look saying: 'Now is that so? Damn, every day on this job a man learns something new!' And this from an 'inspector' working on the kidney-case for 5 months now! Yes, dear viewer: this is the kind of film that treats you to the most basic Psychology 101, Medicine 101, etc. without having covered its bases in Screenwriting 101. Direction, on the other hand, gives its best to elevate this mess. The pace is OK, excellent cinematography makes the most of the good production values, and there are a couple of decent gore sequences. Nothing innovative, mind you: it's strictly 'been there, done that (much better), got a T-shirt' material. The stalk'n'scare scenes are created through the usual 'subjective camera' moves, and the action is overscored by the over-melodramatic music. Any self-respecting horror fan may expect only the mildest kicks out of this (say, on a dull wet afternoon), but otherwise – stay clean off KOMA. This is soap-horror directed towards the lowest common denominator.