Demon in the Mountain: Ron Ng and Stephy Tang in Horror Flick

Stephy Tang and Ron Ng moonlight in China for Zhou Yaowu’s The Demon in the Mountain (a.k.a. Bleeding Mountain), a low-budget horror-thriller that starts as a decent diversion before it inevitably paints itself into a corner.

Xin Yue (Tang) joins boyfriend Shang Hai (Ng) on a mountain climbing expedition in a Sichuan-located national park along with his three friends Luo Yi (Deng Ziyi), Laowei (Sun Zuyang) and Li Jian (Tae). The group intends to conquer Peak No. 5, which they’ll be allowed to officially name if they reach its summit. Shang Hai has another desire: He wants to name Peak No. 5 after Xin Yue, thereby commemorating their love. That’s really sweet of Shang Hai. But it unfortunately does not offset the hell that Xin Yue is about to go through.

The next day, Xin Yue stays at the base cap while the other four scale the mountain. But only Luo Yi, Laowei and Li Jian return, saying that Shang Hai died in a fall. Later that evening, Shang Hai shows up, claiming that the other three died on the mountain. And are now ghosts who will try to kill them both. Even later, the other three say that they’re not ghosts and that Shang Hai is the ghost. And he’s going to kill them all. Obviously, Xin Yue feels like she’s taking crazy pills. Is her beloved Shang Hai lying to her? Or are the friends, two of whom carry torches for either Shang Hai or Xin Yue. The evil parties? Is Xin Yue suffering from altitude sickness? Or is it the fault of the evil, evil black plastic bag floating above our heroes? The answer neither shocks nor surprises.

As a time-killing genre thriller, Demon in the Mountain (Bi An Nui Tuyet) has its positives. But as a complete feature it undeniably falls short. The premise is fine, and director Zhou Yaowu gratefully does not overdo the requisite romantic entanglements. Confusion is the primary emotion anyway, as Stephy Tang spends pretty much the entire film acting lost and incredulous. Especially when events on the mountain curiously start to repeat themselves. The production could be better; visual effects are the pits, and it’s incongruous that everyone returns from their mountain accidents in perfectly clean all-weather gear. Also strange is Stephy Tang’s attire, which consists of a Uniqlo-type cardigan and jeans. A really unsuitable combo for overnight camping in any sort of mountainous region. Still, nitpicking this much about a film featuring an evil plastic bag would be mean.

Unfortunately, Demon in the Mountain doesn’t – or perhaps can’t – resolve itself. The film doesn’t reveal if its events are supernatural or psychological in nature, with the truth only implied by a voiceover during the end credits. Said resolution is expected, considering the usual restrictions placed on SAPPRFT-approved horror films(phim thuyet minh), but it leaves this genre with only few options. Basically, supernatural-seeming events can only be: A) a dream, B) somebody’s madness, C) a fictional story told by someone in the film, or D) totally unexplained.

Watching movies like these to find out what’s happening just isn’t possible. So we pretty much have to enjoy them as cinematic rides and little else. Using that criteria, Demon in the Mountain measures up OK, and is ultimately too minor and unimportant to seriously criticize. Stephy Tang fans may simply enjoy that she’s in nearly every frame of this 88 minute trifle. Sometimes simple pleasures are best.

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