Suspense thriller The Mysterious Family may leave one howling in frustration

Ariel Lin (above) plays the psychologically scarred victim of a brutal attack in The Mysterious Family.
Ariel Lin (above) plays the psychologically scarred victim of a brutal attack in The Mysterious Family.PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION

REVIEW / SUSPENSE THRILLER

THE MYSTERIOUS FAMILY (PG13)

92 minutes/Opens tomorrow/2/5 stars

The story: Miaomiao (Ariel Lin) is psychologically scarred after surviving a brutal attack by a stranger (Blue Lan). She refuses to speak to her family and shuts out the world by concentrating on training for a marathon. On Christmas Eve, her mother (Kara Hui) urges her to return home early for dinner with her father (Jiang Wu) and brother (Chen Xiao). Miaomiao later learns that a serial killer is on the loose that very day.

An unreliable protagonist. A looping narrative. A villain who keeps turning up like one's worst nightmare. In more assured hands, these elements could have made for a compelling thriller.

But Korean writer-director Park Yu Hwan delivers only an overworked and overwrought movie that is more confusing than mysterious. (Do not mistake Park, who helmed the Chinese-language thriller Memento Mori (2016), for the idol actor Park Yoo Hwan, who starred in She Was Pretty (2015).)

Is there something diabolical going on? Are we being fed a steady stream of red herrings? And how trustworthy is Miaomiao anyway?

Unfortunately, the question becomes "Do we care?" at some point as the assembled cast, including China's Jiang (To Live, 1994) and Hong Kong's Hui (Rigor Mortis, 2013), is both underused and misused.

There is a point here about how one should not box oneself in after a traumatic episode, but it is buried late in the movie. And to get there, one has to sit through scenes of Lin howling in frustration - you might be tempted to do the same.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 19, 2017, with the headline 'Family may leave one howling in frustration'. Print Edition | Subscribe