Asia has long been a source of fan-favorite films. Anime, Hong Kong action, and J-Horror are all examples of the diversity in Asian cinema. Released in 2017, The Tag-Along 2 is a Taiwanese horror film that became the became the highest grossing domestic film of the year. Beneath its familiar surface is a surprisingly good movie.
The Tag-Along 2 is based on a Taiwanese urban legend. In 1998, a family watching a video of a family trip saw a girl in a red dress following a family member who had recently passed away. The video was shown on local television in the hopes of finding the girl. The person who turned in the video soon died in a car crash. In another common story, an elderly woman would go missing for five days. After being found she said a girl in a red dress had taken her away. There are many stories involving a girl in a red dress followed by the mysterious death of whoever saw her.
The Tag-Along 2 has many of the familiar tropes of the genre. There is a girl with stringy hair in her face, creatures leaping at the camera, and creepy broken-down buildings. But the movie breaks the constraints of its familiar trappings and has a deep story. The Tag-Along 2 deals with the mother-daughter bond in various ways. This is not simply a case of a daughter screaming, “You did this to me!” There are themes of control, independence, maturity and femininity. It is rare that modern horror movies go beyond simple jump scares and present multi-faceted characters.
The film is well shot. Colors are dark and subdued, adding to the sense of dread and the film’s sense of mystery and terror. The surveillance video that is shown to the audience is appropriately eerie. There is a scene in a climatic scene that suffers from shocking poor CGI effects, however.
The Tag-Along 2 may suffer in its translation to some Western audiences. The film takes a strong stand against abortion while exploring the mother-daughter dynamic. Much of the film is also reliant on Chinese and Taiwanese mythology. The antagonist’s motivations can be discerned from the events of the movie, but many of the other characters’ decisions are cultural. The most obvious example is Lin Jun Wei who is the embodiment of the Tiger Spirit that protects the forest. There is nothing wrong with the idea behind it, but Wei also walks around on all fours complete with tiger growls. Not the actor growling. Actual recordings of tiger growls that the audience is expected to believe is a result of the character. It is supposed to come off as mystical, but it is just silly. And while it is not necessary to watch the first movie, it does help.
The Tag-Along 2 seems to be a typical horror movie but is much more; the movie explores guilt and remorse specifically through mothers and daughters. There are some rough moments, but overall it is a fine addition to Asian cinema.