Asian Girls (Final Girls Berlin): Proximity Breeds Distance – and Terror

Writer/director Hyun Lee’s Australian short Asian Girls is an enigmatic, wholly arresting look at two young neighbor women who live highly contrasting lives – and who haunt each other’s dreams. Striking visuals and a striking soundtrack drive this dialogue-free piece.

Chan (Rainbow Chan) is a Chinese seamstress who subsists on instant noodles and boiled black Century Eggs. She has terrifying visions of her well-to-do Japanese neighbor Yamada (Stella Leung) hovering over her at night. Yamada, however, is made to feel uneasy by Chan, as well.

Lee juxtaposes the trappings of these two very different women who live mere feet away from each other. For example, Yamada dines on steak tartare at a gourmet restaurant seated next to her Dior and Chanel shopping bags, while Chan takes a simple picnic lunch in the great outdoors. This method of collocation comes into play during the short’s horror scenes, as well.

The horror on display is not graphic, but it does provide a certain queasiness in some scenes. Fans of Asian horror films will be well versed in the menacing poses and screaming faces, but what the short deals well in is keeping viewers ungrounded as to exactly what is going on, and giving everyday, routine matters a discomfiting, almost surreal approach.

Lee has crafted an absorbing short film that is both sophisticated and accessible. Her images, captured beautifully by director of photography Grégoire Liére, are beautifully framed, and the pacing is perfect for this piece, which runs just around six minutes. Both Chan and Leung give quietly intense performances.

Asian Girls gives viewers plenty to chew on, and it also provides shudders aplenty on the surface level, too. It also introduces Lee as a filmmaker with a great deal of promise.

Asian Girls screened at the 2019 edition of Final Girls Berlin Film Festival.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.