Cheap scares

Despite some nice touches, The Tag-Along: Devil Fish is ultimately much more formulaic than its two predecessors

The Tag-Along: Devil Fish. Photo courtesy of M Pictures Co.,Ltd

It's quite rare that a film from Taiwan would make it to Thai cinemas, but The Tag-Along: Devil Fish is an exception, as the film was picked up by Malaysia-based distributor Golden Screen Cinemas (GSC) to be a part of the 10 territories of Southeast Asia.

The Devil Fish is the third instalment in a successful Taiwanese horror franchise called The Tag-Along, which tackles a Taiwanese urban legend that has a way of getting under our skin.

While there's nothing wrong in squeezing out another story for the already well-known franchise, it gives the audience more of what they want. But the key is not to repeat with the same old formula, and try to come up with fresh new ideas when it gets a little tired.

But this is something the makers of The Tag-Along need to look into after a mediocre and quite disappointing outing from their latest release.

Directed by David Chuang, The Devil Fish marks the return to the big screen of the popular Taiwanese actress from the 90s Vivian Hsu, along with rising star Rexen Cheng.

The film made an attempt to disengage its story from the first two, which were about a mysteriously creepy girl who dresses in red who haunts and takes away lives of the living.

Instead, The Devil Fish takes on another folklore legend, about a man who died tragically after seeing a face on a fish he caught, sparking rumours of demons and possession.

The demon we're talking about is named Mosien, previously cast out and captured by a powerful exorcist, Master Tiger, who then sealed the demon in the body of a fish in order to be diminished forever. But then there's a group of kids who unknowingly release evil spirits again when they catch this demonic fish from the river. And out of curiosity, the fish is brought home and put in a fish tank, and this is where the nightmare begins once again.

The Devil Fish is not necessarily bad and unwatchable, but the film felt like it tried too hard to be better and bigger than the first two, successful films. Maybe the director thought the plot too thin, and decided to change-up the story with three tales put together in one film. This turned out to be a confusing mess for The Devil Fish, with shots bouncing between too many characters, and dissipating any motivation. It doesn't feel very realistic.

Although parts are filled with scary creep-out scenes, they're mostly jump scares, which makes it hard not to notice the repeated formula and old clichés we've seen so many times before.

The Devil Fish is David Chuang's first horror feature, and he probably still has a quite-limited understanding of the genre. He directs the film almost robotically, playing out scenes as sequences, with no real control over progression or motivation.

It's unfortunate, because the film shows some promise -- an interesting cast with decent acting, and the occasional nice CGI effect -- but ultimately the film fails to make us feel invested in what's going on in the story. And then there are those old, cheap scare scenes that quickly become predictable.