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Phantom of the Theatre 

Wednesday, May 4 2016
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With all due respect to A Haunting in Cawdor, Raymond Yip's Phantom of the Theatre is how you do a movie about foolhardy showbiz folks encountering spookiness in a haunted theatre — at least for the first two acts. In 1930s China, director Wei Bang (Tony Yo-ning Yang) is determined to film a horror movie starring lovely but mercurial actress Si Fan (Ruby Lin) in a dilapidated theater in which an acrobat troupe burned alive 13 years prior, and which everyone knows to be haunted (something that's confirmed when ghosts start causing people to spontaneously combust). As though a horror movie about the filming of a horror movie about ghosts in a theater known to be haunted with ghosts isn't self-referential enough, one character also points out that the State's censorship laws state that films "cannot promote superstitions and aberrations." That law, which is still on the books, might explain why Phantom of the Theatre starts off as a high-energy ghost story but devolves into a more mundane revenge narrative, complete with a disappointingly non-supernatural reason for all the deaths and a dollop of sentimentality. But Phantom of the Theatre is still a fast-paced and agreeably silly horror movie and showbiz satire for the most part, even if it pulls its punches at the end.

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Sherilyn Connelly

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