The Chrysalis – The Best Chinese Horror Movie Ever? In this special format, we’ll not only check out the movie but I will explain the ending, because if you know anything about Chinese horror movies, then you know they aren’t very conventional. In this episode we are going to take a look at a movie that is reported to be the best Chinese horror movie ever. That’s a tall call. Welcome to this review of The Chrysalis, a creepy horror mystery thriller. Let’s look at what’s hatched from this cocoon. A young hairdresser, Wenxin Guan, is kidnapped and tortured by an old university friend named Annie. Annie is jealous that Wenxin stole her boyfriend Luo Jia, their old university teacher who she is obsessively in love with.
Three months after the kidnapping, Wenxin awakes in the middle of a busy road in the pouring rain. She has no memory of the last three months, and is quickly reunited with Luo Jia. But things aren’t right. Wenxin keeps imagining she is Annie, whose dead body was found in the bottom of a lake, and while trying to get her life back to normal, she starts to slowly lose her mind. A mysterious man is following Wenxin. He seems to know what’s happened to her, but there are people trying to stop him for telling her the truth. But none of this seems to bother Luo Jia, who has decided he wants to marry Wenxin. But it’s at their wedding, where the horrible truth of what’s going on is revealed.
Now we are going to play a game – I am going to give you three options, and you are going to guess how this movie is explained. Your options are: The answer will be revealed in the Explanation section. When the user reviews on Chinese movie portal website Douban comment that this is the “best Chinese horror movie ever made”, then such a bold statement should needs to be tested. Personally, I’ve always thought Bunshinsaba 3 was the best, and after watching this movie, I still do think it is. But this movie is a different type of horror film than that, and is very much worth your time.
The central point of this movie is actress Sandrine Pinna, she a Taiwanese born Chinese-French actress and is playing in the role of Wenxin. She’s a very interesting casting choice, with her distinctively Western looks, but fluent Mandarin. On the most part, the movie is quite good, but as we will explore in the next few sections, there are some quite ridiculous bits that at times shift the tone of the movie from serious, to comedic, and it’s purely unintentional.
The opening torture scene in the bathtub is mostly good. And if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know what I mean. There’s just one section where Wenxin gets out of the tub and somehow manages to trap Annie in there, who then gets electrocuted, is both good and bad. The slow and curious build up of the story works in the movie’s favour and turns it into a thriller. The greenhouse scene is probably the point of the movie when you’ll work out, or at least have a good idea, of what’s going on. And don’t forget, the movie title is a massive giveaway. In Chinese, the title roughly translates to “Female Cocoon”. Before we move on, lets learn some more Chinese: Wànshèngjié.
This means ‘Halloween’ – And if you are wondering, the famous movie series is not known by this title, but rather the super awesome “Yuèguāng guāng xīnhuāng huāng” which translates to something about moonlight But Halloween, that’s Wànshèngjié But the problem with the movie isn’t the good bits, it’s the bad bits. And there are a lot of small bad bits everywhere that just have too much of an overall effect on the film that shift it from something that feels like it could be realistic, to something that just seems like a fantastical story.
From the opening torture scene that makes little sense, and is then completely disregarded in the final act, to the annoying speed ups of footage done by the director to editor to give the movie a music video vibe, but in the end, it makes the film look a little cheap. Then there are the silly plot holes. The three-month gap isn’t satisfactorily explained, and in real life the events that occurred during that time would take years.
There’s even the silly scene of a labourer following the doctor in a taxi to a wharf, clearly a long-distance drive, only for him to dismiss the taxi driver and start walking back to the city? Why? And then there is also all the “only in the movies” type scenes. Smashing a car into a brick wall and just walking away, pushing a guy off a roof with no consequences, and having Annie’s sister and father taking a huge role in Wenxin’s wedding, when they are clearly love rivals.
This one is at least explained by the ending, but before you know that it just feels off. This is the spoiler section, so if you ever, ever plan on watching this film, maybe skip this bit. Back to the three choices I gave you earlier in the video, if you guessed then you’d be correct. Well done. This one I didn’t really see coming. Somehow during the torture scene Annie either accidentally kills or knock Wenxin unconscious. I’m not 100% sure on this one. With Wenxin out of the way, Annie contacts her father for help, and convinces him to reshape her face to look like Wenxin.
The Mysterious Man we meet during the movie was responsible for the surgery, and he did it with the promise that Annie would fall in love with him. After countless surgeries, Annie is satisfied that she looks enough like Wenxin that she feels she can fool Luo Jia. However, when she looks in the mirror and realises just how much she now looks like Wenxin, she completely flips out into a mental state and takes on her persona. She then slowly by surely, with the help of the Mysterious Man, gets her memories back.
But for a brief time, there are two people living in her body. It’s actually kind of a little confusing, and the way it is presented on screen is a little ham-fisted. It makes for a good thriller movie, but it can be a little confusing. So does it live up to the mantle of best Chinese horror movie? Well I don’t think so.
There are still too many silly scenes in this movie that really stop it from taking that mantle, but its definitely in the top 5. In general horror movie terms, in a scale of 1 to 5, this movie clearly gets a 3. It’s actually an interesting and entertaining horror thriller, and it will have you gripped to the screen watching every twist and turn With my patent pending GHOST rating, which stands for Great Horror Or Stupid Trash, this movie gets 4 ghosts. It’s above average against other Chinese horror movies, and can hold it’s head just above water in the sea of Asian horror thrillers. Is it worth a watch? For sure it is, but Bunshinsaba 3 is better.
But why? What is the reason they’re all playing these tricks on Shen Ze, and why are they using the ghost of his dead fiancée to do it? I’m going to give you 5 seconds thinking time to see if you can guess why. Have you worked it out yet? Xiao Xi isn’t as tough as she wants to make out she is. She is annoying though. And she drops a truth bomb. She is Xinlan’s half sister.
Although let’s think about it. Shen Ze didn’t know she had a half sister, and I think telling your partner about potential siblings is a pretty important thing in a relationship. So she couldn’t have be that important, right? But wait, there is more! Enjing isn’t the perfect angel either. Down the basement where the shrine to Xinlan is, Enjing confronts Shen Ze and admits she is also Xinlan’s half sister. His dead fiancée had two half sisters, and she never told him! Goes to show how important they are. However, due to the rather poor translation, I am not sure if “half-sister” is correct, and whether it could actually mean they were close friends.
At this stage Doctor Zheng has also snuck in the house, hoping to hear Shen Ze admit what everyone is hoping to hear, that he is reason that Xinlan is dead. But he refuses. He admits he loves her and his story doesn’t change. Xinlan was suicidal. And why was she suicidal? Well this cute little note tries to explain, but it’s written in English. Xinlan has been calling out for help for a long time, using her folded paper cranes to hide her message in plain view. Fun fact – upside down the messages says “I’m fine” the same words that Xinlan said to Shen Ze when she first appeared to him as a ghost. Everyone, including Dcotor Zheng, is upset they never picked up her depression, which led to her suicide.
But this is where the filmmaker goes and fucks everything up, by coming up with an almost comical explanation for her state of mind. She is suffering from “smell depression” What in the actual fuck? This is supposed to be a touching and emotional scene, but I was in stitches. Was this deliberate by the filmmaker to make it so… ridiculous? Am I a bad person for laughing? Anyway, the movie ends with Enjing giving a presentation to a group of medical professionals about Smell Depression and how this could lead to suicidal thoughts in patients and what she wants to do to raise awareness about it.
This could be the reason why this is Shilei Lu’s last ever horror movie. If this is a personal movie for the director, I apologies for being insensitive, but I think there was probably a better way you would have honoured the memory of someone than this film. Speaking of the film, this is still technically classed as a horror film, even though like always it turns into a thriller, and an accidental comedy. I do question the use of the director’s obsession with rubber masks, but I am glad that we don’t actually have one of his usual face-off reveals.
There are a few both nice and annoying touches in this film. The good being the great use of horror camera angles. I have to admit, Shilei Lu is good at that but I am not sure what else he is good at, other than recycling the same locations and music, as well as ideas. His homage to Forrest Gump at the start is interesting, as we follow a floating feather that defies the laws of gravity and wind and is a nice touch. However, I am annoyed at the birds that have free reign to roam the house.
They’d be shitting everywhere surely. And I do think at certain stages of the film, the director just wanted to make a comedy. Check out this Pink Panther inspired music when Xiao Xi sneaks back in the house to dress up as the ghost I also wanted to know more about this magic spray they keep using on Shen Ze Thankfully, that’s it for Midnight Melody.