Review: Haunting Love (2012) Chinese Movie Starring Cheng Yi

Haunting Love Chinese movie review

Haunting Love is a 2012 suspense-mystery romance film directed by Ting Liang. It is not really a horror movie as it does not have any gruesome scenes but more in the thriller-suspense genre where the eerie musical scoring and cinematography make you jump in fear. 

I did not have much expectation about this movie because Chinese films are not known to be good in the suspense genre. I just watched it for Cheng Yi. I was curious how he acted in his debut film. He did this movie when he was still in college (Central Academy of Drama). 

Haunting Love Chinese drama review
Cheng Yi as Su Yang in his debut movie, Haunting Love

But yah! This movie turns out pretty interesting. So many unpredictable twists. And the scare elements really gave me some hair-raising moments! The plot twists full of surprises, I did not see it coming especially the character of Su Yang! 

I was impressed with Cheng Yi's performance in this movie. He really delivered! And to think it was his debut film. And my gosh! His role here. I am speechless, his character was the biggest twist in this movie, like, goodness, you would never see it coming. Even now, just thinking about his character, makes my hair raised!

Haunting Love Chinese drama review
Zhang Zehan as Li Mingyan

Zhang Zehan also performed well in this movie. He portrayed the supporting role of Li Mingyan. At first, I found him a bit creepy and initially thought he was the bad guy. But well...

Haunting Love 2012 Chinese movie review
Xin Zhi Lei as Xiao Xiao Ya

Plot Summary:

Haunting Love tells the story of a famous radio host Xiao Xiao Ya (played by Xin Zhi Lei) who was engaged to Li Ming Xuan (played by Li Mingle). a writer. 

It was supposed to be the start of their "happily-ever-after" journey, but days before their wedding, Xiao Xiao Ya caught Li Ming Xuan in a hotel room with his ex-girlfriend, Xu JiaWen (Jeana Ho), making love. It shattered Xiao Ya's world and she became suicidal. At one point slashing her wrist.

Haunting Love 2012 Chinese movie review
Xiao Xiao Ya and Su Yang

Unable to cope with the betrayal of her fiance, Xiao Xiao Ya went up to the rooftop of the building to commit suicide, Li Ming Xuan desperately begged her to reconsider, but Xiao Xiao Ya was determined to end her life, but before she could jump off someone saved her, and it was Li MingXuan who fell to his death.

Soon after, Xiao Xiao Ya began experiencing a horrifying vision of Li Ming Xuan. He seemed to be everywhere, in the elevator, in the hallway, in the bathroom, and in her room, haunting her. Strange and unexplained events soon piled up, making her restless and edgy. 

Xiao Xiao Ya confided her worries to her childhood friend, Su Yang (Cheng Yi) who always kept her company and cheered her up. Su Yang assured her that there were no such things as ghosts. 

Haunting Love 2012 Chinese movie review
Su Yang is Xiao Ya's only confidante

Su Yang became Xiao Xiao Ya's guiding light, someone who makes sure she is safe and protected. Always at her side when she needed him most. He accompanies her in making groceries or going out to the park.

But out of nowhere, she saw a vision of a helpless child, clutching a creepy doll. Su Yang assured her that such a child never existed. 

Later, the terrifying visions of Li Ming Xuan became frequent. So her circle of friends, Xu Wei (Yu Yi), a wealthy businessman, Li Ming Yan (Zhang Zehan), the younger brother of Li Ming Xuan, and Shen Mei Yi (Anna Kay), the girlfriend of Li Ming Yan, came for support. 

Still, their presence did not help alleviate her fears, and soon her troubles rolled into anxiety. Her worries began to worsen when she heard that Xu Jia Wen, the other woman of her dead fiance, jumped off to her death after being pursued by a man in a black raincoat.

Haunting Love 2012 Chinese movie review
Xin Zhi Lei and Cheng Yi

Okay, guys, I know how it feels if there are spoilers. It diminishes the thrill and the sense of mystery, and you will feel betrayed. If you want to watch this movie right now (less than two hours only), go directly to these links: Haunting Love Part I and Haunting Love Part II. It's free with English subtitles. 

But if you want to read our review with some spoilers, you may proceed. 

Main Cast: 

  • Xin Zhi Lei as Xiao Xiaoya 
  • Cheng Yi as Su Yang

Support Cast: 

  • Zhang Zehan as Li Mingyan
  • Anna Kay as Shen Meiyi
  • Yu Yi as Xuewi
  • Lin Ming Le as Li Ming Xuan 
  • Jeana Ho as Xu Jiawen

Our Review:

Haunting Love brought a lot of surprises, a captivating plot, a thought-provoking concept about life and death, and mental health, and surprising twists, like, you would never see things coming. 

I did not have much expectation watching this film since this is an old movie released in cinemas in 2012, and Chinese movies in the past were not good in the suspense genre. 

But what a haunting movie indeed! It's a riveting plot I would say. The writer was clever enough to craft an unpredictable storyline that's consistent until the end.

Haunting Love 2012 Chinese movie review

The character of Su Yang (played by Cheng Yi) is the biggest plot twist in the story, when the reality is revealed towards the finale, I could not help but re-watch his scenes to spot the hints. Because there's no way in the world you would ever expect that his character is something like that. haha!

However, this movie sometimes can get boring somewhere, as some mundane scenes tend to stay longer before making a transition. The cinematography is not good, the asset of this movie lies in its jump-scare mechanism. 

Some actors were bland in delivering their acting performances to the point of exaggerating their facial expressions, only Cheng Yi, Zhang Zehan, and Yu Li really delivered well. Cheng Yi was still super young here. He made this film while he was still in college. But he delivered a good performance.

Haunting Love 2012 Chinese movie review

This movie has a good script with a nice back story of the main characters - Xiao Xiao Ya and Su Yang, you can't help but sympathize with their sad plights. 

It has a lot of potential to be a classic suspense movie had the production allotted a huge budget for the cinematography and visual effects. Also, I find the screenplay lacking in intensity and momentum. They could have tightened it to be more gripping and scary. 

There are also some slow moments in progressing the scenes which tend to be boring at some point. But when it comes to the quality of the plot, it's good! It's one of the best materials I've seen in a suspense drama.

Haunting Love 2012 Chinese movie review
Cheng Yi and Xin Zei Li

Related topic: Cheng Yi's profile and acting projects

The sensitive topic of mental health

But what I love about Haunting Love is its rich theme. It explores mental health issues such as anxiety, paranoia, and schizophrenia, medical disorders that are rarely discussed in public in Asian society even today because of the stigma and fear of being judged and ridiculed.

Haunting Love confronts us about how we would extend help to people who suffer from a mental breakdown, or how to detect people who have depression so that worse sequences such as suicide or succumbing to paranoia can be prevented.

These are mental health issues that are common nowadays that we never bothered to give attention to, thus, we hear so many incidents of suicides. 

There are people in our circle who really need help. Depression is now categorized as a disease and should not be taken for granted. So we need more films like Haunting Love to spread awareness about mental health issues and to allow people to be more confident in opening up their anxieties.

Haunting Love 2012 Chinese movie review
Xin Zei Li as Xiao Xiao Ya 

Warning: Spoiler!

Xiao Xiao Ya, who grew up in the orphanage after her parents were killed in a car accident when she was still young, suffered from isolation, unable to process carefully why her parents died. But these were not addressed properly so it left a scar in her life, worsened by the bullying of her playmates when she was still young.

Then she met Su Yang who accepted her and loved her unconditionally. Su Yang became her savior, protector, and the only person she could depend on. He was her only "home" where she could feel safe and happy.

But that "home" was taken away too soon from her. Su Yang's sudden death worsened Xiao Xiao Ya's mental health, a kind of emotional shock that she was unable to recover. 

It rolled into severe anxiety and depression. Triggered by the betrayal of her fiance, Li Ming Xuan, Xiao Ya ultimately suffered a mental breakdown. 

So she tried to create an escape world from the harsh reality to make herself feel better, to make her life tolerable and safe, thus, began inventing Su Yang in her mind that he is still alive, that he is still around protecting her and accompanying her when life becomes unbearable. Because it's only with him that she feels safe and protected. 

But actually, he is already dead years ago. So it was Su Yang who was Xiao Xiao Ya's haunting love. A love that she cannot get over, a love that she cannot move on from, because she felt it was only Su Yang who loved her unconditionally, and it was only him who could make her safe and protected.

Su Yang was Xiao Xiao Ya's Haunting Love

Xiao Xiao Ya actually has not fully recovered from the death of Su Yang. His death left a deep wound in her life, something that she was never able to get over. And it triggered when the man (Li Ming Xuan) she thought could protect and love her betrayed her, thus, she began turning to the memory of Su Yang as an escape from the harsh world.

She tried to create a different persona using Su Yang as her alter ego and defense mechanism from all the troubles that befell her. But it piled up to more terrible consequences as she became paranoid. It ultimately worsened her mental health condition, progressing to a more dangerous zone of schizophrenia.

XiaoYa actually needs help as her mental health deteriorates, but no one seems to notice her cries for help until it becomes fatal. 

However, I wish the writer kept her character alive in the end to give hope to those who are suffering the same condition that there's still hope, That it can be avoided as long as there are proper interventions. That suicide is not the solution to end our problems. 

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