31 Days of Hell: They Wait (2007) - Reviewed

Photo courtesy of Brightlight Pictures

Halloween has become a day celebrated practically worldwide, but in some cultures, age-old traditions still stand out of reach of capitalist whoring that cheapen the origins of these sacred festivals. One such fascinating, though not so obscure time of the year is Hungry Ghost Month, a Buddhist and Taoist festival practiced mostly in East Asian countries. According to the Chinese calendar, Hungry Ghost Month falls on the 15th night of the seventh month every year.

2007’s They Wait is a chiller steeped in this very tradition and does not hold back on either jump scares or the more valued creep factor most fans of supernatural horror crave. It concerns a Shanghai-based family who are forced to return to the USA temporarily for a family funeral. However, when the father is briefly called back to China for a meeting, the mother and her six- year-old boy stay behind with Aunt Mei, widow to newly deceased Uncle Raymond, affectionately known as the Bone Collector.

As both mom Sarah (Jaime King) and her adorable son Sam (Regan Oey) are inclined to the shining, Ghost Month season wreaks hell on them. They are both terrorized by the same desperate soul done wrong by a despicable practice once perpetrated by the family, a young girl who takes possession of young Sam to find her justice. But as the Ghost Month draws to a close, Sarah has to hurry if she wants to save her son from the kingdom of the dead and expose the evil disgrace of the Bone Collector and his associates. With the help of a local pharmacist, she learns of the rituals involved to enter the underworld to find and rescue her son.

The synopsis of They Wait might sound generic, but it is simply a framework for several layers of interesting tropes the film explores. They Wait addresses the vile tradition of bear bile farming and bear mutilation, while educating the audience on other aspects of the culture with well-placed apprehension.

Funeral rites of exhuming immigrant bones to be shipped back to China in the early 20th Century make for a delectable bone box of terror. This tradition lays the foundation for the full-blown vengeance of the cheated spirits allowed to infiltrate our world during Hungry Ghost Month, perfectly similar to the premise of Halloween, but quite a bit darker.

They Wait employs a myriad of excellent haunt scenes, the likes not to be found elsewhere as far as I know. Its subtle fear creeps like that of The Changeling, gradually exacerbating the fate of the protagonists while serving up a steady diet of superstition, mystery and exposition.

Sadly, Jaime King’s acting is not her best in this, leaving us more annoyed than sympathetic in most places and the CG is not great, but passable for its purpose. Other than this, They Wait is a beautiful ghost story that holds the mysterious and the macabre in the marrow of its bones. This is a must for people who enjoy something slightly different, who love to chew the sinew of a good old fashioned vengeful ghost yarn, cross-culture.

--Tasha Danzig