Dir: Sam Leong Tak. Hong Kong. 2002. 120mins.

The Stewardess had a dismal theatrical outing in Hong Kong last year when its gross failed to break four figures. But an appearance in competition at the PiFan fantasy festival in Seoul last month could set this charmer of a black comedy back on course towards international recognition. The picture has an appeal that falls between Japanese horror flicks, typified by Miike Takashi's The Audition, and the Pang brothers' ghostly chiller The Eye, although it is not a heavy duty as either. Instead it starts with an easy-going charm which is slowly displaced as the hero's options narrow. Festival, specialist theatrical and video audiences should lap it up as refreshing genre entertainment.

The Stewardess' greatest asset is the role of irrepressible everyman, Keung (Sam Lee). A not-especially good-looking chancer, he is an unpublished screenwriter whose hobby is drinking with his best mate in bars where he makes outrageous passes at classy women.

Keung's life takes a turn for the better when, against the odds, he scores with a pretty stewardess (Lee San-San), who soon takes him home to meet dad. The father, however, is bad news. A ranking triad member, he has Keung tailed and would happily chop off Keung's manhood if he so much as looked at a woman other than his domineering daughter. Paranoia is duly instilled.

Things get stickier when the couple's new next door neighbour turns out to be an impossibly beautiful Japanese stewardess (Kasugai). She is both the embodiment of his peculiar fantasy of sleeping with a Japanese woman as revenge for the historic ills done to his country by Japan, and the murderous, stabbing figure from his repetitive nightmare.

Her scarlet uniform and spiked heels should have been a warning, but inevitably Keung's weak male flesh succumbs and the nightmare starts to become horribly realistic.

After talking his way out of a dismembering by dad, Keung and his girlfriend have to deal with the apparition of the Japanese woman in their apartment, at the airport and around every corner. As he begins to lose his mind, Keung slowly realises that she may not be all there. Or not real at all.

Leong has a track record of various production and assistant-directorial roles on a string of Hong Kong and Japanese pictures and works regularly in the Japanese TV scene. The Stewardess, on which he doubles up as screenwriter and producer, however, is his first as director. For all that it is derivative and occasionally shows the stamp of its low budget, the picture suggests that Leong could be a name to watch in the fantasy-horror genre.

Prod co: Same Way Production
HK dist/int'l sales:
Ng Wang-Hung
Fung Yuen-Man
Prod des:
Eric Lam
Kiyoshi Yoshikawa
Main cast:
Sam Lee, Lee San-San. Seina Kasugai, Lai Yiu-Cheung