The Sleep Curse – aka Shi Mian – is a Hong Kong horror feature film directed by Herman Yau (Voodoo; The Ghost Inside; The Untold Story; et al) from a screenplay by Erica Li and Eric Lee. The Cat III movie stars Anthony Wong, Michelle Wai and Jojo Goh.
In 1990, neuroscientist Lam Sik-ka (Anthony Wong) and his father Lam Sing (also Wong), who was a translator for the Japanese occupational forces in Hong Kong, suffer from a generational sleep curse.
Sing has hid that in his past, he did not save a comfort woman (Michelle Wai) from persecution by the occupiers. Sik-ka learns later learns that his father’s death death was due to a curse applied by this woman and will eventually also haunt him…
” …beneath all the blood and guts – the film’s primary concern can be seen as the suppression of women under the phallocentrism of war and militarism […] it’s an undeniable fact that women of the time were socially vulnerable and thus exploited. Chances are you’ll come to see The Sleep Curse looking for its B-grade thrills – but you’ll leave pondering a far bigger picture.” Megumi Arita, Asia Times
” …it has the odd feel of a horror uninterested in actually being frightening, its ghost scenes feeling perfunctory and its scattered jump scares half-hearted. To be fair, this fits in with Yau’s approach to exploitation, and as with Untold Story and others, he’s clearly more focused on the social commentary aspects of the plot – and of course, the gore.” James Mudge, Eastern Kicks
“Having moved on from the days of being typecast as a psychopath, Wong falls short in providing depth to either of the two characters he plays here. The same goes for Yau, who struggles to rein in all the sprawling elements — the non-dimensional characters, the visceral violence, Brother Hung’s bombastic music — into a tight, coherent movie.” Clarence Tsui, The Hollywood Reporter
“Initially, Yau seems more inclined to evoke feelings of uneasiness while maintaining a general sense of mystery, until total bedlam breaks in in the third act. We’re talking totally nuts here. Regardless, in a dual role, Anthony Wong makes a credible Peter Cushing figure as Dr. Lam and is aptly tragic as the ill-fated Lam Sing.” Joe Bendel, J.B. Spins
“All in all, Sleep Curse is not entirely disappointing, but the gore and shock are too far apart for those looking for a similar 90s cult experience. Still, the Yau and Wong combo clearly works and the film is at its best when Wong is required to go totally crazy and beyond human imagination. There are good moments in this film, it’s just not consistent enough.” Neo Film Shop
“Co-screenwriters Eric Lee and Yau regular Erica Li Man threaten to put the sleep in The Sleep Curse with such excessively long flashbacks to explain the origin of the curse […] The film only snaps back to life with an avalanche of decapitation, mutilation and cannibalism in its last reel.” Edmund Lee, South China Morning Post
“In its depiction of Japanese atrocities and revenge exacted by ethnic Chinese people on their territory’s evil occupiers, it can seem like The Sleep Curse has Mainland China more than Hong Kong as its target audience. However, the supernatural elements in this horror work would appear to preclude it being shown over on the other side of the Shenzhen River while this Category III-rated offering’s most gruesome scenes seem like they would appeal most to the type of B-movie aficionados who are particularly prevalent in the West.” Webs of Significance
“Yau begins in the mode of tame absurdity as Sik-ka calmly breaks into a morgue for an impromptu bit of brain theft (later shoving his loot into a hollowed out durian fruit to hide his crime), but descends into blood soaked depravity in the increasingly strange final reel. Genuinely outrageous, though also incoherent, The Sleep Curse should provoke nightmares enough with its shocking, gore filled finale but may also leave a sour taste in the mouth.” Hayley Scanlon, Windows on Worlds
- Emperor Film Production Limited
- Stellar Mega Films Limited
George Town, Penang, Malaysia
The Sleep Curse premiered at the Hong Kong International Film Festival in April 2017. It had a wide release in Hong Kong on May 18, 2017.
Anthony Wong announced that The Sleep Curse would be his last performance in horror and thriller films, stating he no longer enjoyed making them.
Image credits: Eastern Kicks