Ghost on Air is 2012 psychological horror hailing from Singapore about a popular radio DJ who gets into trouble for public violence and ends up jeopardizing his morning rush-hour slot. Desperate to reprimand for his actions and recover from a tragic loss, Ping Xiao accepts the offer to take up a new radio midnight show called “Ghost on Air”, where he shares horror stories with his listeners. The film is directed by Cheng Ding An and stars Y.E.S. 93.3 FM DJ Dennis Chew.
The sub-genre “psychological” has been circling the mainframe of Horror for a long time and we’ve seen quite a few impressive ones the past years, namely South Korea’s A Tale of Two Sisters and USA’s The Sixth Sense. Sometimes, the psychological element of a horror film could either make or break it. Incorporating this factor is both tender and risky because you have a whole list of elements to consider before you actually push through with it. To some people, it may seem easy to come up with twist-relevant plot, unsuspecting characters and unpredictable jumpscares but in reality, it is one of the most difficult challenges a writer and director takes. If the one point goes wrong, it just might ruin the integrity of the film.
After an impressive opening and a proper feel of the plot, I felt that there were aspects of the story missing as it started to drag on. It even came to the point wherein the film was jumping from one scene to an irrelevant one. You could even feel the effort it was building to make the scenes work. It had a very original storyline, the potential to be one of those films that deliberately made you ponder and it had the right atmosphere that most psycho-horrors try so hard to achieve but it just wasn’t enough.
Although, I have to praise the director’s approach on revealing its ghost antagonist close to the end. Halfway through the film, I realized that most of the scares come from the impressive and eerie sound effects coupled by the eye-catching items falling aimlessly. This part of the film was very effective for me because I was expecting a typical long-haired ghost to appear and disappear out of nowhere or peak out from a small crevice in a wall or window but no! Sound was the mode of fright of this film and despite the lack it had in its psychological attempt, the haunting sound effects made up for its disappointing effort. Personally, I enjoyed every scene that involved the film’s icon: the toy-drum. Again, we see how the Asian film industry has lovingly twisted a harmless object into an instrument of vengeance.
The film’s characters, although, were a disappointment for me. Throughout, we are left with knowing too little about the protagonist, his fiance and the seemingly vengeful-seeking ghosts (except the toy-drum ghost). We are given the jist of what has happened or what is happening to them but because of the lack of any personal background, we are cut off from their dilemmas and fail to sympathize. It goes to show that I prefer films that give you an indirect connection with the characters, whether they be the good or bad guy. It adds to the effect of limitations and paranoia combined, making the audience feel trapped and panicked over the situation of the characters.
Overall, I have nothing but mixed feelings towards Cheng Ding An’s film. But maybe, it’s just me and my simple insight. Have any thoughts on this film or review? Feel free to comment below!