Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Hotel Soul Good is good because it's got soul! (Film review)

No nightmare awaits at a screening of  
Hotel Soul Good -- I promise! ;)
Hotel Soul Good (Hong Kong, 2018)
- Yan Pak Wing, director and co-scriptwriter (with Yim Ka Yee, Lo Ka Yee and Lee Ho Tin)
- Starring: Chrissie Chau, Louis Cheung, Eric Kot, Maggie Siu, Richard Ng 
Before anything else: Yes, my first blog post of 2019 is a review of a film I viewed close to two months ago.  My main reason for doing this is because -- at least at the time of my writing this blog entry -- Hotel Soul Good has a terrible 3.9 out of 10 rating on the International Movie Database (IMDB) website that many film fans refer to when deciding whether to check out a cinematic work or not and I honestly reckon that's not fair on this offering that I must admit to having been inclined to give a miss myself until a good friend told me that it's quite the stealth gem.

Given a Hong Kong cinema release date around the time of the Chung Yeung Festival and also scheduled to still be in theaters over Halloween, Hotel Soul Good is largely set within the premises of a budget hotel whose staff members include a woman who sees ghosts, a spirit medium and three actual ghosts.  Rather than be a horror film though, this is a ghost movie with a heart and soul, whose makers appeared more inclined to tickle the funnybone and touch the heart than scare people witless. 
At the beginning of the movie, Hotel Soul Good's main character is an orphan girl turned succesful hotel executive whose hard-driving as well as -driven nature can make her seem like scarier to those around her than any supernatural being!  One fine day though, Katie (Chrissie Chau)'s life is turned upside down by her losing her job, boyfriend and consciousness in quick succession.  At least the last loss was only temporary.  The trouble though is that upon regaining consciousness, Katie discovers that her world is now populated with ghosts as well as fellow live beings, all of whom are equally visible and audible to her!

Fortunately for Katie, the ghosts in Hotel Soul Good turn out to be on the friendly and caring side.    Which is a good thing for her since three of them (played by Eric Kot, Maggie Siu and Richard Ng) attach themselves to her and actually treat her better than she had hitherto treated her fellow humans. For the first time in ages, Katie now has caring companions -- including John (Louis Cheung), a human the ghosts introduce her to -- who dispense important life lessons as well as help her to operate a small hotel that soon becomes a social media sensation thanks to ghostly presences having been detected there by guests!
One of a number of admirably local Hong Kong movies released in 2018, Hotel Soul Good can seem like a particular throwback to 1990s Hong Kong cinema in terms of it being unabashedly touchy feely and having few qualms about throwing together certain elements most associated with horror movies (ghosts! underworld guardians! Taoist rituals!) with comedic and dramatic ones. While some people might find these tendencies offputting, I reckon they contribute significantly to the film's charm.
Another strong point of Hotel Soul Good as far as I'm concerned is its cast.  None of its members may be A-listers but so many of them are familiar faces who it can seem like a bonus to spot in a supporting role; this not least because the likes of Susan Shaw Yum Yum and Helena Law Lan as well as Maggie Siu, Richard Ng and Eric Kot never seem to waste any of the screen time they are given and often are able to leave deep impressions with just a few minutes, lines or even just one knowing look.
My rating for the film: 8

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