Written and directed by James Hung, ‘Detrimental’ is a feature length 2023 Chinese horror thriller. The film stars Ho-shun Wong, Kenneth Chan and Shirley Chan. ‘Detrimental’ follows a group of miners stuck on an alien planet where the corporation they work for extracts a very rare metal. While most of the crew is made up of ex-convicts, there are some miners who are blind. A freak storm takes the facility offline and throws the whole mining process in jeopardy. As the miners try to manage the fallout, they find that an alien monster is hunting them one by one.
Although this premise has been done before, it is always exciting to see a group of protagonists fight against an overwhelming enemy against towering odds. The crew is made up of a wide variety of characters, some sympathetic and likeable while others obviously written as unlikeable and possibly villains. How they interact depends on Hung and as the scriptwriter, he manages to infuse a sense of originality in the story. We begin to care for the blind miner as well as the female accompanying him and as the audience, we want him to survive at all costs for his daughter back home.
Working with a story that the audience might consider predictable, James Hung strives to keep things fresh. He mostly succeeds in this regard as the story takes a few unexpected twists and turns along the way. Pulling double duty as both writer and director, Hung ensures the story moves along at a breakneck pace as he injects several moments of sheer terror and carnage at optimum intervals. Hung makes us care for the characters, only to put them at risk later, making for an effective story that keeps you on edge for the entirety of its duration.
The biggest selling point of the film is its alien creature. It is heartening to see here that they have mastered the art of making monsters that look as real as the characters. The creature design is thus fantastic and one can see the makers were inspired by the monsters from Stranger Things when designing this alien killer.
The makers really went for a creature that looked both horrific and disgusting and as this monster is unleashed, the miners start to meet their end one by one. James Hung keeps the kills creative and this ratchets up the tension right until the very end. We don’t know who the monster will take next until it happens suddenly without warning.
One of the undoubtedly best aspects of the film is its production design. From its polished cinematography to the fantastic colour grading, Detrimental looks as good as its Hollywood counterparts. Equally impressive is the set design which ensures the mining colony and the alien planet look so real that you have to double check; real sets effortlessly fold into computer generated backdrops in every exterior shot. The vast factories, impressive jungles and dark long alleyways combine to form a visceral experience that makes the perfect setting for a brutal story.
Seamlessly combining real sets with digital landscapes, Hung and his crew have made a film that is on par with Hollywood when it comes to special effects. Brilliant effects require an equally impressive sound design and this is where the film manages to impress as well. From the creature’s unique sounds to the sheer background noise in the jungle planet, the sound design elevates the entire experience. Simply put, the film is an audio visual delight.
The film whizzes by in flash and this is because it is fairly short at only 80 minutes. Extending the runtime would have only made the film more slow and for a horror thriller, this is a big no-no. As a result, the editing is kept tight, ensuring the audience remains invested for the whole ride. Side by side, the narrative pacing also ensures that the story does not get bogged down in any moment; characters are on the run from a killer monster and James Hung ensures that the sense of urgency and desperation as a result of this grim situation does not disappear.
What it succeeds in is weaving its familiar tropes in a way that is both entertaining and thrilling. Setting a bunch of people in a dangerous environment, the film contains both pulse pounding moments and creative kills. Visually, the film is fantastic and thus, it is an experience that should be seen on the biggest screen with the best sound system.