Movie Review: 49 Days/驚夢49天 (2020)

Some people shouldn’t be writing screenplays, others shouldn’t be directing films and some others still shouldn’t be calling themselves “actors”. Unfortunately, the people involved in the Taiwanese film, 49 DAYS, didn’t listen to me and they made this poorly conceived and poorly executed steaming loaf of doggie do. If you’re still with me, 49 DAYS is billed as “the first Taiwanese movie that combines guanluoyin (觀落陰) with Virtual Reality”, whatever the hell that means. “Hell” is the key here as guanluoyin is apparently a dark witchcraft leading living people to descend into hell to visit the dead.

Daniel Lee (Chinese-American Lewis Liu) is the vice president of a VR company in Taiwan. While giving a presentation to foreign investors and other bigwigs, he has an unsettling vision of a young woman in a red dress. Later that night, at 4:44 am to be exact, the vision returns and a timer that counts back from 49 mysteriously appears on his forearm. Unnerved by the experience, Daniel hires a police sketch artist to draw a picture of the woman but when he returns to his office with something for the man to drink, he finds that the man has apparently strangled himself to death inside Daniel’s fish tank. Needless to say, police detective Yi-Zhen (Lorene Ren/任容萱) thinks Daniel killed the man and her suspicions of his guilt only grow when others in Daniel’s circle of friends and acquaintances meet their own demises in the days that follow. Eventually, though, Yi-Zhen starts to believe in Daniel’s innocence because the script tells her to, and the two of them begin a search for the young woman that leads them to a Taoist temple that is run by a young priest named Zhang Hao-Yu (Hong Kong’s Samuel Ku/古斌). There, Daniel gets a tour of hell while Yi-Zhen goes along for the ride because she has her own disturbing past that just so happens to be not too dissimilar to the mysterious young woman’s.

What a complete mess of a film. The story, by award-winning producer, Pan Chi-Yuan/潘志遠 (Don’t ask me what he won. I’m just going off the production notes here.) defies logic at every turn and includes such ridiculous lines of dialogue that it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that the actors broke up with laughter during the shooting… or maybe they didn’t because, with the exception of venerable Hong Kong actor Tai Bo (THE LADY IMPROPER), who appears in only one scene but whose name appears right up there on the credits, calling them “actors” is a stretch. Even worse is the glaring plot hole left over at the end of the film that must have been apparent to Pan and debut feature director Louis Zhan/詹家維 in post-production because they seemingly tacked on an absurd epilogue that only serves to shine even more light on their ineptitude.

49 DAYS opens in Hong Kong today (October 15). Unless you’re a masochist, stay far away from this one. This is easily one of the worst films I’ve seen this year.

Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live on Friday, October 16th, 8:30 am HK time!

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