Baby Blues (2013)

Author: Brett Gallman
Submitted by: Brett Gallman   Date : 2014-09-01 03:58

Written by: Bak-Ming Wong
Directed by: Po-Chih Leong
Starring: Sing Kwan Janelle, Raymond Lam, and Hoi-Pang Lo
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman

Cradle and all.

Baby Blues isn’t exactly what I assumed it was going to be: typically, horror that revolves around infanticide and postpartum depression is usually a bummer. It’s understandable. Po-Chih Leong’s film isn’t quite like that, though—whether by accident or design, it’s sort of a hoot, all things considered. With its scatterbrained attempt at stuffing in various horror tropes (it’s not all dead babies and mourning mothers), Baby Blues is a strange, kooky little movie whose weirdness often outweighs the general shoddiness of its production values. What we have here is the sort of movie many intentionally “bad movies” aspire to be.

Not that Baby Blues is outrageously terrible—it’s just that it has fits of weirdness that emerge from its admittedly rote setup: a young, happily married couple (Raymond Lam & Janelle Sing) buy a house at a value that’s too good to be true. Upon moving in, they discover the previous owners left behind a strange doll. Despite the ominous warnings of an elderly neighbor (and the fact that the doll appears to have been leaking bloody tears!), the two remain in the house and everything begins to go to shit: in his struggle to write a hit song, Hao digs up a preternaturally effective old dirge and begins a flirtatious collaboration with a pop star, while his suddenly expecting wife’s pregnancy culminates in the death of one of her twins.

Residing in the background is the weird doll, seemingly orchestrating all of these events in some fashion (unbeknownst to anyone, save for the wise old sage, of course). Obviously, Baby Blues is an eclectic mix: not only are we dealing with possessed murder dolls, but we’ve also got a killer musical tune (which once drove folks to suicide, though Hao’s version only makes folks want to puke—progress, or a trenchant critique on covers?) and an increasingly neurotic wife dealing with postpartum and the loss of a child. The latter provides most of the through-line, but it’s hardly a thoughtful exploration on this subject matter, not when it’s so oddly handled and surrounded by bursts of lunacy.

What’s so strange is how carefree Tian’s depression and psychosis is treated: maybe there’s something that’s been lost in translation, but it never seems as if anyone bothers to deal with it in any way. A doctor assures Hao that she’ll eventually improve with treatment (that we never see administered), and the entire approach seems to be “let her walk it off—she’ll get over it” (and this is not to mention the doctor’s glib insistence that Hao, too, might begin to suffer from delusions). When Tian begins to treat the doll as if it were her dead son, neither her husband nor sister ever break the truth to her—it’s like they just want her to work her delusions out and play along with her. That doesn’t sound like proper protocol.

All of this is oddly compelling in its utter weirdness, as even the expected, routine story beats are delivered with eccentric flourishes. The doll’s backstory has not one, but two sordid tales that somehow manage to involve multiple sets of twins and whatnot (not to mention a board game that goes horribly awry—Baby Blues really tries to stuff everything in), while Mao and Tian go through a hellish exercise in couple’s therapy when the latter begins to suspect the former is out to kill the doll. Along the way, there are several memorable bits, such as Mao having a nightmare in which his dead infant child grows into a teenager and accosts him for letting him die. At one point, Tian actually drops her very much alive baby from a second story window, an inherently terrifying idea that feels utterly silly within the context of this movie.

I don’t mean to give the wrong impression: Baby Blues doesn’t seem to be playing for laughs, nor is it even hyper-aware of its insanity. It’s just plain tone deaf. How else do you explain a film of this nature featuring goofy, sometimes over-the-top 3D gags and bizarre interludes featuring the doll that are meant to act as visual cues that it’s…up to something, I guess. Speaking of the doll: this little fucker is no Chucky, that’s for sure, but it’s creepy enough, though somehow far more laughably robotic and static than its livelier predecessor. Both the doll effects and the 3D especially reflect the film’s low-rent production values, and I have to wonder if the latter explains why the film looks like an over-lit mess at times. Baby Blues often looks unreal in a cheap, artificial way rather than simply looking nightmarishly eerie, though Leong does occasionally find some garishly effective visuals.

Baby Blues is a fine example of movie that has too much going on to be effective, yet is impossible to completely dismiss for the same reason. With so much stuff being flung at your brain matter, something is likely to stick. Sure, it never quite excels at any of these modes, but it’s not for lack of being totally deranged while operating within them, at least. Unfortunately, North American viewers won’t fully experience this gonzo exercise in the third dimension since Well Go’s DVD and Blu-ray offerings only feature the flat version of the film. Aside from this and a general lack of extras (there’s a trailer for this film and other Well Go offerings, and that’s it), the release is fine if not unremarkable. At least the same can’t be said for Baby Blues itself, which is a damn strange and sometimes completely oblivious movie. Don’t let its apparent familiarity fool you. Rent it!

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