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.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Ban xian jiang (1988)

... aka: Devil Sorcery
... aka: Devil's Sorcery

Directed by:
Do Gong-Yue

Either this is pretty awful or I just got spoiled watching too many Chih-Hung Kuei and Meng Hua Ho movies. Master sorcerer Hadi Buli (Feng Ku) keeps busy doing various jobs for his Thai neighbors; like testing out the luck of newly purchased land and making flying disembodied heads float around in the jungle. He's taken an understudy, Tung (Alan Chan Kwok-Kuen), under his wing and taught him all he knows, but there's something about Tung he just doesn't like. Not only is he an annoying, immature buffoon, but he also proves to be untrustworthy and has eyes for his master's wife. When Buli catches his pupil and significant other in bed together, a fight ensues. Tung stabs Buli with a knife, runs off and then hops a train for Hong Kong. Meanwhile, we pay a visit to the Lau family. Dad (Tin Ching) goes to visit sorcerer / fortune teller Master Chan (Kwan Hoi-San) to get advice about his son Hung (Stephen Chan Yung) and his pretty fiancé Ching (Kim Gee-Mei). Chan tells Daddy Lau that Ching has a bad aura to her, but Hung refuses to hear any of it and waits patiently for his girl to get off work each and every night. Elsewhere in the city, pretty young women are turning up missing.

The man responsible for the disappearances is, of course, Tung, who hides out in a cave meditating, chanting and causing all kinds of problems for innocent people. Why? Your guess is as good as mine. I guess he's just a huge prick. Tung's face has broken out in nasty soars and he begins smelling of rotten flesh because of a curse placed upon him by his previous master, who managed to survive the stabbing. Tung calls forth floating heads, which he sends into the village to hypnotize women. Their eyes turn green and they wander over to Tung's cave dwelling where he ties them to trees and they stand in place in a state of catatonia. It appears he's collecting women, but for what purpose is never made clear. Ching (who really seems to enjoy taking showers) works as a "bar girl" at a dimly-lit, bizarre nightclub where she must sit with and talk to with lonely men. Tung becomes one of her "clients" and immediately becomes smitten with her. After she rejects his advances, he slips something into her drink and places a nasty curse upon her. Ching flips out and ends up in the hospital, where more freaky things happen. The floating heads visit her, she pukes up maggots, her bed levitates off the ground and spins, her face gets all cut up and she suddenly has a giraffe tongue. In an effort to save her, her mother, future husband and future in-laws enlist the aid of Master Chan to help and import Buli in from Thailand to assist him during the climactic sorcerer's duel.

Despite some enjoyably crazy stuff here and there, Devil Sorcery pales in comparison to others of its type. It's cheaply-produced, ineptly made, poorly acted and paced and gets extremely repetitive and tiresome after awhile. There are only so many shots of skulls lighting up, fire erupting from candles and red smoke pouring from the ground that most viewers will be able to handle. The continuity is terrible and there are lots of boring, utterly pointless dialogue scenes rehashing things we've already seen. The camera constantly zooms in and out, the film aimlessly plods along for a good 40 minutes before a plot even begins to take shape and the ending fails to generate any excitement or thrills. And as much as I usually love random, out-of-place musical numbers, I can't champion them when the song is as awful as the one heard her. The single standout moment is an amazingly disgusting scene where the evil sorcerer cracks open a casket to reveal a decomposing corpse swarming with centipedes. He then starts grabbing handfuls of the bugs and shoving them into his mouth, followed by close-ups of a mouth (really!) chewing them up. Yuck.

This Cat III "adult horror" from the director of Bloody Sorcery (1986) has one soft sex scene and about four shower scenes, but the version I watched had all of the nudity fogged out aside from one ass shot. It "borrows" all of its music from other films; primarily Stephen King's Cat's Eye (1985) and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). The Malaysian label Dragon Jester released this onto DVD but they used a piss poor video transfer.


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