THE HOUSE THAT NEVER DIES: REAWAKENING is the follow up to 2014’s The House That Never Dies, and is directed by Joe Chien (Zombie 108). The film is based off of an actual mansion located at No. 81 on Chaoyangmennei Street in Beijing which has been regaled with stories of its supposed hauntings. The film stars Joan Chen (Lust, Caution), Julian Cheung (The Grandmaster), and Gillian Chung (Vampire Effect).
Taking place in both the past and present, THE HOUSE THAT NEVER DIES: REAWAKENING centers on a married couple who have taken up temporary residence in a dilapidated mansion on 81 Chaoyangmennei Street in Beijing. Song Teng (Julian Cheung) is a cultural relic restorer working on the restoration of the mansion when he, along with his doctor wife (Joan Chen), begin to experience strange phenomenon throughout the house along with ghostly apparitions. Upon discovering baby skeletons and books filled with unsettling incantation, the stories of the past inhabitants begin to weave their way into present day, revealing the horrors that took place a hundred years prior and the inexplicable murders of the entire Zhisheng household.
I should probably note that I haven’t seen the first film in this series, The House That Never Dies. Upon receiving this review copy I wasn’t sure if not seeing the original film would damper my viewing experience but luckily I found that wasn’t the case. THE HOUSE THAT NEVER DIES: REAWAKENING is not a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t enjoyable. As mentioned above, the film follows a married couple who have moved into a crumbling mansions filled with rumors of the unexplained. On the surface, this is definitely a ghost story, but the further you dive into the film the more the layers are pulled back, allowing for themes such as distrust, love, loss, tragedy, and perceived societal rankings to move to the forefront. With all that said, I was able to easily follow along with the film’s story even without seeing the original, allowing REAWAKENING the opportunity to be a stand-alone film.
The use of CGI is always hit or miss, especially when it detracts the viewer from the unfolding storyline. In the case of REAWAKENING, I really enjoyed the majority of the CGI used with the exception of the ending. To me, this was the weakest point of the film mostly due to how the CGI that was used. I understood what they were trying to achieve, but for a pivotal moment in the film the final execution had a very silly animated look. I think had the effects team gone with practical effects over CGI the final outcome would have been much more in tune with the overall atmosphere of the film. That’s not to say that the visual effects didn’t come in handy at times, as there were plenty of moments throughout the film where the addition of CGI certainly assisted in a specific look, but unfortunately the overuse of it during the final moments took away from how impactful it could have been.
In regards to the acting, I enjoyed all the performances and really liked how the characters were used both in the past and present. On one hand, we see the horrifying consequences that came forth from the decisions made by those in the Zhisheng household and on the other hand we see how those choices impacted our main characters in the present. Seeing these actors take on two roles in a way that each was clearly defined was an impressive feat. I do think the story could have used a little bit of editing as I felt as though there were a lot of moving pieces. The story itself is already grand and atmospheric, adding in additional elements for the sake of scare tactics was something that was unneeded and ultimately weighed down moments that could have had a more effective outcome.
Even with all my critiques I would still recommend THE HOUSE THAT NEVER DIES: REAWAKENING, especially if you love a good ghost story. The use of the mansion was definitely an added benefit to the film, especially with all the legends that surround it. As I mentioned, this film is far from perfect, but there’s a lot of interesting aspects that kept me engaged throughout its run time; so much so, that it makes me want to check out the first film to see if this one ties in with that in any way. If you get a chance to check out this film I would definitely say do so and let us know what you think. Also, if you know of any legends surrounding the infamous mansion, we would love to hear more! THE HOUSE THAT NEVER DIES: REAWAKENING is now available to own on DVD and Digital from Well Go USA.