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The Haunted Office

Haunted Office”, a 2002 offering from Hong Kong, is a horror anthology consisting of 3 episodes set in the same haunted office building. Unlike other anthologies, there isn’t a middleman (e.g. the Crypt Keeper) to “tell” the stories, but instead the writers have interweaved three separate stories that, in the end, merge to form one story. To help continuity, characters from the 3 separate episodes appear in the background of other episodes. It all works out in the end, with that inevitable twist ending that all movie anthologies are required to have nowadays.

First up is the appealing Karen Mok (”So Close”) as a financial advisor who gets moved to the night shift, where she is stalked by a haunted bathroom stall. Second up is Jordan Chan (”Sleeping with the Dead”) as a greedy boss who plots to lay off a kindly and elderly employee so he won’t have to fork up her hefty pension. The third story, which actually shows up most often in the background of the movie, stars Qi Shu (”The Transporter”) as an office worker who has to cope with a sexually harassing boss as well as a ghostly woman in white.

As with Chan’s “Sleeping with the Dead”, the Pang brothers horror film “The Eye” and the Leslie Cheung vehicle “Inner Senses”, Qi Shu’s episode in “Haunted” features Shu as a woman who can “see the dead”. As you can probably guess by now, 2002 was a banner year for Chinese people who can see dead people. If one were to open the dictionary to the phrase “jump on the bandwagon”, I wonder if Hong Kong cinema would show up underneath it.

Cheap shots at the Hong Kong film industry aside, “Haunted Office” is, I can safely say, as scary as watching Jim Carrey’s “Dumb and Dumber” — which is to say it’s not scary at all, unless you’re a big fan of good taste, natch. The first episode, with the lovely Karen Mok being stalked by a haunted bathroom stall, is a laugher. The second episode, with Jordan Chan hamming it up as a boss with sticky fingers and a horny disposition, is all screwball comedy. The episode with Qi Shu and Stephen Fung (”2002″) might have been the best of the bunch, only it didn’t last long enough to prove its worth.

Of all the horror films that have cashed in on the horror trend of 2002, “Haunted” has to be the least scary entry of the bunch. Even Chan’s lackluster “Sleeping with the Dead” offered up better mood and atmosphere, if not a better story. The three directors behind “Haunted” tries some neat camera tricks, but I was more intrigued by the name of one of the directors — the one listed as “Not a Woman” — than I was by the movie itself. Now why would someone call himself or herself “Not a Woman”? What’s he/she/it/them trying to hide?