Danny Pang is more famously known as one half of the directing duo, the Pang Brothers, who made horror movies like The Eye (2002) and its ineffective sequels, The Eye 2 (2004), and The Eye 10 (2005).
His proudest moment was serving as a film editor for the critically acclaimed Hong Kong crime-thriller Infernal Affairs (2002) that was re-imagined in a Boston setting by Martin Scorsese in the Oscar-winning The Departed (2006).
Still, Pang's stock as a filmmaker remains relatively low, and making one mediocre movie after another does not help his cause. His latest, Fairy Tale Killer, does not buck the trend, even though the film has good foundational material to do so.
It has a premise that echoes thematic similarities with Seven (1995), the shocking and twisting serial killer film that effectively launched the career of David Fincher (Fight Club, 1999; The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, 2011).
Instead of the 'seven deadly sins' as used by the killer in Seven to torture and kill his victims, Fairy Tale Killer sees children fairy tales as material ripe for painful picking.
Starring Lau Ching Wan (Overheard, 2009; The Great Magician, 2011) as a tired detective with family issues who has met his match in a stammering serial killer with skin problems, Fairy Tale Killer is not so much a battle of wits between two crafty minds, but a 'I say, you do' formulaic experience that doesn't bring intrigue to the table.
What's then on the table is a predictable offering that loses whatever excitement it could generate from such a plot because you know you've seen these kinds of movies before. In other words, the movie's execution is uninspiring.
The performances are standard for the genre, with Elanne Kwong who plays the serial killer's autistic girlfriend a tad miscast. Pang's direction is nothing noteworthy, but he includes visual and aural elements of horror that sometimes work.
The long-haired Kwong, who wears a white dress throughout the entire movie, is symbolically transformed into a 'ghost' in a short scene via a few jump cuts. In other parts, the sound design recalls that of Pang's earlier horror movies.
Whether they work effectively is left for the jury to decide.
Still, the jury has already decided that Fairy Tale Killer is guilty of being just merely passable fare. That is not a good omen when there are summer blockbusters to compete with, and strong independent films to contend with.
The movie's final shot is accompanied by ominous music apparently done to court the viewer to beg for more, but what has transpired before is enough for the same viewer to decide that counting how many fairy tale books his or her nearest library has on its shelves would be a far more enjoyable experience.