Hong Kong ghosts love green light
It's also under Wong Jing's wing Athena Chu would get a try to fantasy genre. The move might not seem extremely wise in 1998, one year after the surprising success of Japanese horror hit The Ring, which led to a consequent number of imitations in HK, trying to catch the bandwagon and only distinguishable by their systematic mediocrity. Luckily, the female star woouldn't end in the worst flicks of the genre. It's also interesting to note that Athena herself, as an audience, is quite fond of fantasy/horror movie (mostly foreign) which may have been a higher motivation for to take part to those films.
The best moments of Step Into the Dark: The romance between Lau Ching Wan and Athena
The first one is A Step Into The Dark directed by Wong himself and Dick Cho. As we've already seen with Vampire Family, Dick Cho is a dreadful director. It's an easy guess to think he was in charge of all the frightening parts; they are basic and without imagination -- they wouldn't scare a 6-year-old kid. But the movie gets much better in what is the real core of the story, the classical mix of comedy and romance so typical of Hong Kong cinema. Comedy is mostly assumed by Simon Lui in an inspired performance, a mix between Bill Muray from Ghostbusters and a plain con artist. Logically, the romantic bit lies on Athena and Lau Ching Wan's shoulders. Making a good part of the enjoyment of the film, both actors showed a good chemistry and made a nice, touching couple. The fantasy part is only there to slightly enhance the drama of their love story. Even if it's predictable and far from original (from a western as well as Chinese point of view), it reaches in its goal, making the romance a bit different from the usual. But once again, Wong can thank his actors for making most of the show (a repetitive motive in this article, isn't it?)!
Horoscope I: The Voice From Hell, made a year later, proposed similar ingredients but greatly benefited from the change of director, the average but competent Steve Cheng. This time, Athena can fully use the fantasy component of the story to compose her character, a young student who finds herself possessed by a revengeful spirit. Even if Athena was (legitimately) skeptical about some unimaginative tricks used by Cheng (the good old green light directly aimed at faces!), the director did a good work in creating a frightening mood for a couple of scenes and gave Athena several good opportunities to show different facets of her acting. She also gets to act in a more familiar territory (the good old classical romance) but there is much less to talk about, partly due to the limits of her co-star (legendary stuntman Chin Kar Lok) in this kind of exercise. Worth noting is the ending, especially touching for such a small production of this nature. All in all, Horoscope I deserve some attention.
Even if those 2 movies are far from being the greatest fantasy/horror films ever made in the HK SAR, they have been good training ground in the genre for the actress and have paved the way for her great performance in Shiver, 6 years later.