Rating: 3.75 out of 5
The Maid is a Malaysian film and is unusual for Asian horror in that most of the dialog is in English. The main character is a young girl from the Philippines who comes to Singapore to work as a live-in maid for a Chinese couple and their mentally challenged son. The couple speak both English and Chinese, and the movie usually subtitles the Chinese dialog for the viewer.
The story revolves around the Chinese Ghost Festival which occurs during the seventh lunar month. According to folklore, during this time the gates of hell open and spirits are allowed to roam the earth. Rosa, the young maid, is unaware of the Chinese traditions (she’s shown to be Christian) and becomes increasingly frightened as she encounters various ghosts. Most troubling is a female ghost, one of the “hungry dead”, who seems to inhabit Rosa’s new home.
Rosa also becomes friends with Ah Soon, the autistic son of her employers. Ah Soon is an adult but acts like a young boy. He often refers to Rosa as “Esther”, leading her to eventually discover that she was not the first maid to work for the old couple.
Throughout the movie, Rosa encounters a number of ghosts. Some of them are merely frightening, but a few are shown to be malevolent. This is especially true when Rosa’s neighbor is accidentally caught in the shadow of a coffin and is possessed by the spirit of the dead person. She then runs to a shopping mall and leaps from the upper floor to her death. There are some truly shocking moments in the film, times where ghosts leap out at you when you are not expecting it, and the visuals for the ghosts are very well done.
The only real issue with the movie is that the plot is somewhat difficult to follow. Some scenes are clearly dreams, others are real, but it can be hard to tell what did happen and what didn’t. Also, though the tribulations of Rosa’s family back in her home country are somewhat discussed, we never learn if her brother, who was apparently suffering kidney failure, died or not. She sees his ghost, but that may have been a dream. It also makes it hard to understand why she doesn’t simply leave the house after all that happens to her. Especially confusing is a scene where she apparently is speaking to an employment agency worker…it really doesn’t make much sense because you never saw them previously or afterwards, and they seem to tell her to quit, but then she never mentions it again.
It’s these oddly jarring plot points that keep the movie from being as good as it could be. The twist is very well played, and the build up to the discovery is intently spooky. There’s a little bit too much Deus Ex Machina at the end in her escape, but we can overlook that as there’s been some foreshadowing through the movie of what eventually happens.
All in all, this isn’t a bad movie. Unfortunately it’s not exactly formatted correctly on Netflix, causing some of the subtitles to be cut off, but since the majority of the dialog is in English, it’s not too bad.