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Film Review: Peg O’ My Heart (2024) by Nick Cheung
Film Review: Peg O' My Heart (2024) by Nick Cheung

Film Review: Peg O’ My Heart (2024) by Nick Cheung

A cryptic journey through the hallucinating void of our traumas and dark past.

Actor Nick Cheung is back behind (and in front of) the camera with a new horror feature. Always vocal about his desire to keep the Hong Kong horror scene alive, the director returns with “Peg O’ My Heart,” a thrilling adventure through the human subconscious. The film had its world premiere at the 26th edition of Udine’s Far East Film Festival.

Peg O’ My Heart is screening at Udine Far East Film Festival 2024

Taxi driver Choi San-keung (played by Nick Cheung himself) has serious trouble sleeping, to the point he endangers his customers. One of them is psychiatrist Dr. Man (Terrance Lau), who will meet him again at the hospital where he works. In fact, San-keung becomes his involuntary patient after a dangerous driving night. Subsequently, the medications and therapy methods will affect San-keung’s wife (Fala Chen), who is mentally disturbed as well. On his part, Terrance Lau’s character is also sleepless, as he suffers from disturbing dreams of his late mother, which hints at an apparent involvement of his father (Ben Yuen). Both the doctor and the patient are tortured by their dark pasts, but they must face them if they want to live healthily in the present.

Nick Cheung’s new film works as a bridge where the human mind oscillates between a hallucinating reality and suffocating dreams, as he attempts to understand the effects and consequences of personal traumas, which find comfort in haunting the subconscious to madness.

This time, the director created a literal hell of a world. It is a world of abjection, violence, and vulgarity depicted by Jason Kwan’s excellent cinematography of highly saturated colors. While standing out for its incredible performances, the film unapologetically steps outside the genre’s cliché of the nightmare as a foreshadowing of the horror destined to happen soon to the protagonists. The high-pitched and thunderous characters’ screams present themselves promptly; that is when becoming victims of their inner nightmares. 

If you like Peg O’ My Heart, check our whole coverage from Udine

Moreover, this sordid and over-the-top depiction of material reality exists thanks to a lurid space crammed with sounds. Opposed to such a peculiar symphony of colors are the gray scales of the medical environments, where it is unclear if it is possible to try to resolve one’s discomfort. Here, the director makes the dream dimension a patchwork of different visual codes and film materials, whose crypticity and layering effectively render the complexity of dream activity. In some ways, “Peg O’ My Heart” recalls Nobuhiko Obayashi’s “House” (1977), but as if made with CGI.

However, these dreams represent the only realm in which horror exists. Throughout the story, there is room for supernatural elements that thus become images of the traumas stirring in the interiority of the protagonists. Not that there is any shortage of jump scares or depictions of the ghosts that harken back to now-saturated horror imagery, but these appear as tools to make visible and experiential for the viewer the psychic hardships suffered by Dr. Man and San-keung. The craft is original yet, at some point, risks appear redundant and purely aesthetic.

Horror expresses itself only in the unconscious but has firm matrices in the concrete world, which could represent the true realm of the frightening and uncanny. “Peg O’ My Heart” is undoubtedly visionary and tremendously ambitious, capable of an on-screen involvement. Although flawed in some aspects, the story shows a gradual maturing of the actor-turned-director.