The Matrimony is the first film from the recently resurrected Tartan Asia Extreme imprint. For the unfamiliar, Tartan Asia Extreme is the video company that brought the western world such Asian classics as A Tale Of Two Sisters, Spider Forest, and Park Chan-Wook’s Vengeance trilogy (Oldboy, etc). Unfortunately, The Matrimony doesn’t quite live up to Tartan’s past catalog.
Set in 1930s Shanghai, The Matrimony is the story of cinematographer Junchu (Leon Lai) who watches the love of his life Manli (Fan Bing Bing, one of the greatest names ever) die in a horrible car accident (the accident not being as horrible as the cgi, however). Junchu goes on moping in his attic with Manli’s possessions surrounding him being miserable until his mother arranges for him to marry Sansan. Junchu isn’t exactly receptive to the idea but goes along with it to make his mother happy. Sansan tries and tries to make her new husband happy but it isn’t until she has a run in with Manli’s ghost that things start to turn around.
So Manli agrees to help Sansan get closer to Junchu in exchange for the chance to possess her body and be able to touch him one last time. All goes according to plan at first, as Junchu starts to warm up to Sansan. He starts to ask about her life and becomes interested in his wife for the first time. Women get crazy jealous even when they’re ghost apparently, and Manli isn’t about to sit by and watch Sansan get closer and closer to her love.
For a ghost movie The Matrimony moves at a painfully slow pace for the first two-thirds of the film. The pacing is almost, ALMOST, made up for by the cinematography and sets, which are both truly lovely, but ultimately I still found myself getting bored. Also, for a ghost movie, the amount of actual ghost screen time in the first two-thirds is pretty low. And what we do get is pretty watered down. I never thought I’d say it, but I really wanted the stereotypical J-horror black-hair-in-the-face ghost girl to pop out just to shake things up a bit. The Matrimony really is more of a love triangle/supernatural drama than a proper ghost or horror film, that’s for sure.
Things do get somewhat exciting for the final fifteen minutes of the film, but by then it feels too little too late. If you’re a fan of J-horror style ghost movies or what you would normally expect from the Asia Extreme label, I don’t recommend this one for you. If you dig snail-paced pseudo-supernatural dramas, then The Matrimony might be the film for you. Let’s hope the next Asia Extreme release is a little bit more… I don’t know… extreme.
The Matrimony gets a rating of two out of five Screaming Jamies