Ratings Key



★★★★
= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
★★★
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Yan gui fa kuang (1984)

... aka: Possessed II
... aka: Yim Gwai Faat Kwong

Directed by:
David Lai

Director David Lai and star Gary Siu both return for this sequel to the previous year's POSSESSED (1983); also a Johnny Mak production. I suppose the original did well to prompt this follow-up, though it's a sequel in-name-only and has nothing to do with the first one. It's also that rare sequel that improves upon the first. Things begin with an amusing sequence of a zombie-like brothel madam and her little boy and some equally undead-looking American soldiers eating a pot of cooked dog meat. When they hear a noise, the entire crew quickly clear out and erase any trace of them being there. As it turns out, they're all ghosts. The noise turns out to be a realtor showing the place to a young couple; Inspector Siu (Gary Siu) and his wife Li Chun (Mabel Kwong). They already have a little girl, Ling-Ling, and Mrs. Siu is very far along in her next pregnancy. The apartment is a complete wreck and it'll need a lot of work to fix up and renovate, plus it sits right next to an old cemetery... but it's cheap so Mr. Siu talks his wife into moving in. The place is whipped into shape in no time, but there are several problems that can't be fixed with a coat of paint and some vacuuming. The first is an unhappy marriage. And the second, of course, is that the place is haunted, leading to several nasty possessions.





Inspector Siu, though he may work as a respected homicide detective, isn't going to be up for a Husband of the Year award any time soon. He's been carrying on an affair with a female coworker Michelle (Pauline Wong) and has no problem humiliating and berating his wife whenever possible. The Inspector even tells his young daughter that he plans on divorcing her mum if she's not pregnant with a boy! During an ultrasound, it appears Li Chun is indeed going to have a son but her glee doesn't last long after a ghost shows up and pushes her down the stairs, causing her to miscarry. Mr. Siu naturally doesn't believe her story and blames it all on her. Other ghosts show up and it isn't long before both mother and daughter start showing signs of possession. For mom, she puts away her frumpy clothes and glasses and starts dressing and acting sexy to lure men, whom she promptly shreds after transforming into a fanged, clawed werewolf like-creature. Two of her victims include a fat butcher (Chun Wong) who she seduces on a truck hauling pig carcasses and a black guy with a fro lured to a zoo. For the daughter, her new powers come in handy taking on a chubby schoolyard bully. During one hilarious scene, little Ling-Ling turns into a blue-faced ghoul, levitates off the ground and beats the living hell out of the kid who's been trying to rub his boogers on her and steals her Hello Kitty watch.





Mr. Siu finally decides he's had enough and wants his family back. He calls off his affair with Michelle (who Li Chun ends up killing, anyway) and enlists the aid of some exorcists who come to his home armed with an owl, a rat, black dog's blood and knowledge of fung schway to drive the spirits away. Unfortunately, their attempts to clean the apartment of the evil don't quite work and Li Chun and Ling-Ling revert back to their possessed ways. Siu finally seeks the aid of a Hare Krishna (Jayson Case), who explains what Siu is up against. The malicious spirit causing all of the problems, Lucy, was romanced by an American soldier - named Tim Burton! - during the Korean War. He abandoned her while she was pregnant and never came back, so she decided to kill her son and then commit suicide by jumping off the rooftop. She's now buried behind the home and wants revenge against the soldier who spurned her. What this has to do with Siu and his family is pretty much anyone's guess.





Possessed II is a lightning-fast, very busy effort that zips right along from one crazy scene to the next. While the first film had its share of dull stretches, there's never a dull moment in this one. It's more entertaining and more imaginative than the first, the entire cast is enthusiastic, it's frequently hilarious and full of creative special effects and gory make-ups. However, the sheer overkill of this frequently hectic and noisy movie is going to have a polarizing effect on most viewers; some will be delighted by the insanity of it all and others are going to be turned off and find it monotonous after awhile. There's definitely more good here than bad, though the film grows tiresome and seems repetitive at points. The writing is confusing and unfocused. From a structural standpoint, this thing is an absolute mess, though I'm not entirely sure what hand the English subtitles have in that. Oh well. If nothing else, it has the best use of a Hare Krishna since John Waters' classic comedy Female Trouble (1974) and that has to count for something, right?





Supposedly, one of the sailors is played by Toby Russell, the son of late director Ken Russell! DVD is from Fortune Star Entertainment, who also released a nice print of the original.

★★1/2

Meng gui chu long (1983)

... aka: Maang Gwai Chut Lung
... aka: Possessed

Directed by:
David Lai

Royal Hong Kong Police officers Yuh Lung Hsiao (Gary Siu) and Ming Kung (Siu Ming Lau) are on patrol. Ming - who's older but definitely not wiser (and a drunk, to boot) pukes in a pickpocket's face and then forces his partner to chase after a speeder who almost runs him over. They end up out in the country at a house where a man is trying to attack his wife with a cleaver. After being punched and kicked repeatedly to no avail, it takes six bullets to finally put the guy out of commission. The wife, however, isn't all that thankful and curses at them for blowing away her hubby. Strange things begin happening soon after, especially to poor Hsiao, who already has a lot on him plate as is, including having to take care of his rebellious teenage sister (Irene Wan) because his parents are gone. Hsiao's entire apartment starts shaking and the furniture starts levitating, he's attacked by his closet when it detaches and tries to crush him, receives strange phone calls from an inhuman-sounding voice and witnesses the suicide of someone who appears to be possessed by a demon and leaps off a tall building. In addition to all that, Hsiao is suffering from hallucinations, including ripping off his own face.





Hsiao thinks he might be losing his mind. His girlfriend Sue (Chi-Shui Chan) suggests he take a leave of absence from work to cope with the stress but Hsiao passes and opts for prayer, offerings of roasted pig to the Gods and old school charms hung around his apartment to ward off the evil. The charms seem to work, at least temporarily. While he's away at work one day, Sue (who spent the night to take part in a sex scene) removes them to hang Korea posters and unleashes the evil again. She's slapped around by some unseen force, has her robe ripped off, is raped ENTITY-style on his bed, is strung up by her wrists and spits up greek goo. Hsiao rushes her to the hospital and, while he's away, his sister returns home and sneaks in her boyfriend. After some Pac Man and a little messin' round, the spirit returns to toss the sister around her room and bounce her off her box springs right into the ceiling fan, which kills her. After witnessing the incident, the boyfriend goes crazy.





Hsiao and Ming start investigating both the cleaver psycho they shot down and the guy who committed suicide and notice there's a connection between the two men. Both - along with one other guy who was executed - were charged for a murder during a burglary gone wrong. Who put them away? Why, none other that Hsiao's father, who's been locked away in a mental asylum for the past decade and has some secrets of his own when it comes to improper police interrogation techniques, not to mention accepting bribes. After a disjointed and almost aimless first hour - rife with "borrowings" from other horror film and few bright moments along the way - things finally pick up toward the end with a lively exorcism climax that partially redeems things. Included in this ten-minute-long sequence are the following goodies: a man being flogged by a chicken, a real life chicken being thrown into a pit of fire, a female midget swinging around a samurai sword, a man being tossed down the stairs where he's bitten by a cobra, a man being killed by having a cauldron full of hot oil dumped onto his head, a gigantic hand reaching out of a hole in the ceiling and strangling someone, a fish bowl getting stuck on someone's head, eyeballs popping out, a demon-monster, a flaming body leaping through a window and three cars exploding.





Like many other 80s Hong Kong films, this borrows liberally from many American horror movies popular at the time. In this case, ideas and even entire scenes are swiped from a variety of sources, such as the aforementioned ghost rape of The Entity, as well as the pulling-apart-your-own-face-in-front-of-bathroom-mirror sequence from POLTERGEIST. Speaking of Poltergeist, this film also totally rips off the Zelda Rubinstein character by having an eccentric, whiny-voiced little psychic lady who keeps talking about the "Four-face Buddha." There's also a car crash right out of one of the OMEN movies and other elements Xeroxed from other films.





Followed by the immediate, unrelated sequel POSSESSED II (1984). The Japanese company Fortune Star Entertainment released both films to DVD with optional English subtitles.

★★
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