This is not actually a review for the Chinese horror film Baby Blues. This is more an account of the experience of watching the Chinese horror film Baby Blues. The curtain rises on me browsing Netflix one day, looking attractive and charismatic as per usual. As it happens, I faced a dilemma.
Choosing what horror movie to watch on Netflix is a daily battle. There are way too many films on the list, and most of them are something like “Attack of the Pumpkins 2” or “Lady Gets a Disease But It MIGHT BE A DEMON ACTUALLY.” The loglines are always wrong and the suggested star ratings seem to be randomly generated. Acknowledging this, the popular on-demand streaming site, as of my last visit, has removed genres from the browse menu in favor of new-aged labels like “Strong Women” and “Common Sense Media Family Picks.”
Despite my best efforts to locate horror I ended up browsing “Hidden Gems,” which is not a Webkinz flash game as it might sound but in fact a stunning collection of films ranging from documentaries about the government to documentaries about the government making us fat. You just can’t be disappointed with the disappointment that usually follows browsing a Netflix list.
I am currently in the process of training my sense of whimsy, since in these cases when all the answers are wrong it’s best to simply pick a film by its cover and not regret it later. Baby Blues — or as I prefer, its Google-translated original Chinese title Sly Infant Jimmy, is about two newlyweds who move into a cursed house and decide to keep the creepy doll they find inside it.
Act I, nothing
Hao Ye is a songwriter and audio producer for superstar BOBO. Hao is under pressure to write the next big hit after his last successful song three years ago, which has apparently generated enough royalties to keep him impressively wealthy during the dry spell. He therefore decides that for the sake of being edgy, he needs to write Gloomy Sunday 2, only as lounge music. That bit wasn’t some kind of hypocatastasis; he actually wants to parody Gloomy Sunday.
I don’t know what the wife’s name is. The person doing the Netflix subtitles couldn’t decide which one of the three women leads was Tian Qing, which was Ying Lan, and which of them didn’t have a name. I think the wife might be the third one but I will give them nicknames just to be sure.
Wifey is a stay-at-home person-type who thinks about having babies and updates her blog nightly with witty new complaints about her husband. Her sister, WifeySister, doesn’t do anything for a living either except ride and later fall off of her bicycle. There’s also Drunkle, the drunk hobo outside the couple’s house who plays tunes on his pitch pipe in exchange for Hong Kong pennies.
It’s unclear whether he’s actually Hao’s uncle that they choose to leave in his bum-tent three feet outside their enormous house with a swimming pool or whether that was another subtitle fuckup. It’s easy to mistake this movie for a comedy, mostly because of the hilariously timed cutaways to Drunkle CHUCKLING KNOWINGLY during important conversations.
Hao: Your baby died at birth!
Wifey: [SOBS] I don’t know what I’m doing!
Drunkle: [CHUCKLES KNOWINGLY]
Drunkle has no purpose except to warn the couple that their house is a deathtrap so their only means of communication for unrelated matters are dramatic coin-toss shots and throwing inappropriate objects into his ever lit hobo fire barrel, such as a paper airplane.
Then it gets worse. Wifey gets pregnant with twins, upon returning home from the doctor Hao writes the names ADAM and JIMMY on her stomach in marker as some kind of strange man-demand and Wifey squeals in delight. There’s no brainstorming process leading up to this moment — Hao must have been sitting on these potential explicitly not-Chinese twin names for weeks. That or he was writing friendly labels for her organs.
“Adam and Jimmy” is an ugly sounding name for a duo by English standards, but hearing non-English actors sound it out every time really drives home the sheer non-artistry. The real kicker is that one of the twins dies at birth (another plot element Netflix bungles in the subs), and it’s not Adam, since that might resemble some kind of intentional Biblical allusion, but Jimmy, the sliest of infants. WATCH OUT FOR JIMMY!!
As many among the film’s infrequent critics have been eager to point out, the effects and CGI for this film, which had its 3D theatrical release in October 2013, are terrible. BOBO gets in a car accident, but the screen goes to black after about three seconds as I guess they ran out of budget to finish the whole “crashing and burning” bit. The only decent CGI elements are those pertaining to the cursed doll, as all the participation awards available in that category already went to the props master.
Sly Infant Jimmy has received generally unfavorable reviews from Chinese audiences and generally total disinterest from Westerners. The film seems to be comprised of two separate films, one about Hao cheating in front of his pregnant wife with a superstar and one about the wife getting an ugly haircut and slipping into insanity so Hao looks like less of an asshole. When the film moves to resolve the whole doll mystery that’s supposed to be at the core of it or whatever, it results in that special kind of traffic accident that can only be shown for three seconds before we run out of budget.
Hao is implied to make some kind of deal with the doll in exchange for artistic success, but as the doll tries to take people’s lives via office fire, traffic accident, and/or rogue nylon guitar string like some kind of monkey’s paw, not one successful murder is carried out on-screen, perhaps for lack of dexterous thumbs or access to anything at a higher altitude than two feet above sea level. Then again Hao doesn’t end up producing a hit, because everyone hates Gloomy Sunday 2 except for the second popstar who appears after BOBO is hospitalized, and even then only because she wants to bang him.
There’s also a backstory where the doll plays into the deaths of the house’s previous owners — all of whom happened to be twins — including a famous romance novelist and some friends playing an evil game of mafia, but at the same time the doll is the vengeful unborn spirit of Jimmy, capable of causing hallucinations and nightmares and maneuvering objects with its limited doll mobility, but also the doll killed Jimmy, and it gets power when blood accidentally drips in its eye or something. Jimmydoll is additionally connected to the house, which is inexplicably tied to death, and there’s a realtor named Mr. Zhou who is probably evil given how quickly and enthusiastically he is able to keep ushering in new buyers to the evil house and only the evil house.
Act II, in which Baby Blues delivers a single scare and possibly kills an old person
Nothing actually scary happens in the body of this film. Once WifeSister looks at a book cover and the point of view shot shows the doll on it with some sort of loud jarring sound, but that’s about it. The two entire songs in the Baby Blues soundtrack are a semi-ironic happy family theme and the (actually pretty catchy) Gloomy Sunday 2: Jazz Hands. In fact, Baby Blues informs a feature-length film’s worth of disparaging commentary rather than a legitimate review, which is why I am going to instead review only the last ten seconds of the film.
Surely you have seen the German screamer commercial Ghost Car. Unlike “The Bong-Chon Dong Ghost” or Scary Maze Game, in Ghost Car there’s no real content to speak of, just relaxing music and uninteresting, cheerful visuals until a zombie pops up at the end, a bit like reaching into a box of crackers and pulling out a large hairy beetle. Baby Blues is exactly this commercial extended to some ninety minutes.
For context, Hao destroys the eyes of the evil doll and throws it into Drunkle’s fire, where it tries to escape as a flaming ghostly abomination and attack them but then crumbles into ashes. Wifey finally realizes the truth that Jimmy died at birth (as she had been treating the doll as her second son) and Drunkle chuckles knowingly. The couple finally moves out of the house, Popstar 2 dedicates her new track to them, and as they drive across the summer landscape in a pickup with her soothing theme in the background, the movie book-ends with an internal monologue about finding happiness, and how even though bad things happen, good things can follow after if you believe in yourself or whatever.
The camera pans to the back of the truck, which is filled with boxes of furniture and possessions, including the open one in the center with baby toys. Without any change in the music, this specimen springs out of the box with a horrible screech, and the film cuts to black. This was probably even worse in 3D — even on a flat screen, this image looks like a composite of live action and stop motion.
The colors are wrong! The everything is wrong! It also makes no sense given the plot, which established at a bare minimum that the doll was connected with the house and suggested that things were resolved as long as they moved out of it. What was this even supposed to mean? For what purpose was this added in except to probably kill an old person sitting in the audience? I’m accidentally a film major and after sitting through the credits for any explanation I thought I made this up.
Whoever directed this film looked at the set and reflected on their lack of a suspenseful soundtrack and embarrassing CGI and inconsistent plot and, totally self-aware, decided to use all these things for one last hurrah, and they killed it, as well as an old person.
Looking back on Hidden Gems now, I see Baby Blues has vanished and each of the entries after it moved up a slot. The film was clearly a ghost. I am four out of five certainty coins worth of certain that Netflix funded this contrived Chinese film so like three unsuspecting people would watch it alone and night and be in for the most glorious screamer of their lives, provided they were able to get through the first thirty minutes, which many of the reviewers weren’t. Netflix is thus the greatest prankster of our time.
I give this ten seconds of footage seven out of ten seconds.