Charlene Choi is a schizophrenic woman obsessed with another man (played by Shawn Yue) in this film by director Oxide Pang. The condition of schizophrenia is given ample attention and the script is exceedingly well-written and complex. The visuals are dark with limited (yet effective) use of CGI to communicate important elements to the viewer. There are a lot of twists and turns within this originally structured storyline, but in the end they are all logical extensions when the film is studied and understood properly. This is one of the best horror films I've ever had the pleasure of watching.
If Gillian Chung had her breakthrough performance in Beyond Our Ken (2004), then Charlene Choi has now officially had her breakthrough performance in Diary (2006). She's practically unrecognizable from her previous roles. She's psychologically fragile, obsessive, desperate, subtle, and very unstable. In other words, she's fantastic.
The cinematography and settings are gorgeous, using a variety of techniques to create a dim, murky atmosphere. Some scenes are in black-and-white, while others are shot with restricted colors. The overall feel of the film reminded me of Kiyoshi Kurosawa's work, absent the ambient soundtrack - Oxide uses his trademark horror beats to great effect here. The limited CGI is very fantasy-like, which is interesting considering the fact that it occurs within an apartment. Basically, Diary is eye candy from minute one.
It is ironic that all of the great storytelling that was lacking from Re-Cycle (2006) has miraculously appeared in Diary. It's almost as if the Pangs decided to sacrifice the former for the latter, because Diary simply could not be written more effectively. It acts like a mystery that slowly reveals itself until the very last frame. There is a significant focus on character perspective and subjectivity that ultimately provides the driving force.
Most of the reviews I've read have been positive. However, some have taken issue with the structure that Oxide chose to use. Needless to say, it's wacked out and totally different than most movies. I don't want to get too specific, but all I will say is that I thought the movie had ended a number of times before it actually did. Fortunately, all of those "extra" scenes were the best parts. I personally think that the critics are misguided, since the weird format works very well.
Let's put it this way. I've seen over 130 East Asian horror films, and Diary ranks among the top 5.
Rating: A magnificent 5 out of 5.