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Monday, March 25, 2019

San geng ban ye gui nao fang (1985)

... aka: 三更半夜鬼闹房 (on-screen title)
... aka: 半夜三更鬼闹房 (what most websites list)
... aka: Ban ye san geng gui nao fang
... aka: Demon's Apartment
... aka: In the Middle of the Night: The Ghost Room
... aka: Three More Midnight Ghosts
... aka: Three Nights in the Ghost Room

Directed by:
Yao Fung Pan (Feng-Pan Yao)

I reviewed the IFD cut n' paste mash-up DIAMOND NINJA FORCE (1988) here a few years back. That release basically just added ninjas and new subplots to a preexisting horror film and changed the plot via dubbing. At the time, I didn't know where the bulk of the original footage came from... but now I do! And I was surprised to discover the original non-IFD'd version had also been released with English subtitles on VHS. Where we run into a bit of trouble is trying to come up with an accurate release year and original release title as no two websites seem to have the same information! Let's start with what we do know. The on-screen title for the VHS release (which differs from the IMDb listing and poster art I found) is 三更半夜鬼闹房, which a translator tells me means San geng ban ye gui nao fang, or (loosely) "Three More Midnight Ghosts." The director was Feng-Pan Yao, who's virtually unknown here in America, even to genre buffs, despite making around 20 horror films and being one of the Top 10 most prolific genre filmmakers of the 70s and 80s. According to the Hong Kong Movie Database, his final film as director was a 1983 schlock action film called Golden Doll. As of this writing, the database doesn't even list this particular title on his filmography.

This is sometimes listed as a 1985 or 1986 release, but just as often a 1977 or 1978 release. Some sites give the alternate title of 13号鬼屋 (Haunted House #13), but that appears to be another film from 1975. I then stumbled upon another site that gives the alternate title of Can Deng You Hun San Geng Tian and release year of 1977, which IS listed under Yao's filmography on HKMD. However, we run into some more problems here. For starters, that seems to be the alternate title for another Yao film called The Old Lock, or it may be another film entirely. Two other things make me doubt this is the same film: 1. It has some plot similarities to Poltergeist, and 2. It uses stolen music from Grammy-winning composer Harold Faltermeyer and several other 80s sources. In other words, this really couldn't be from the late 70s because the swiped music was released as late as 1984 (some is from the film Thief of Hearts) and, of course, Poltergeist was released in 1982. Going by what I've uncovered, I'd say this was filmed around 1984 and released the following year.






A construction crew unearths human remains on a burial ground with a bulldozer, but the boss pays them off to keep quiet and keep working. On top of the burial ground, some luxury condos are built. Soon after, the boss is visited by a green-faced ghost in his limo and dies of a heart attack. 

Just moving back to Taiwan from the U.S., a young yuppie couple; architect Shang-Chih Yuan and his emotionally-fragile wife Man Chun, plus their little son Hsiao Pao, end up being shown one of the homes by a realtor. In lieu of outright buying it, he allows them to rent it, which is a good thing since this is one mortgage nobody's going to want to own. The wife immediately has bad vibes and finds the home "very grim" but hubby talks her into it. Their first night there many strange things happen. A black cat seems to materialize out of thin air, newly-purchased flowers wilt and turn black, chicken bones from dinner end up scattered all over the floor and Man Chun has visions of a decapitated head in a laundry basket and a ghostly face in the mirror. The son has his own visions of ghosts, including an old woman he starts calling "Grandma." Typical first night in a haunted house, I'd say.






Shang-Chih has to go to work the following day, leaving his constantly-shrieking wife alone with the son. While trying to prepare dinner, she has "illusions" of mice, a dead frog leaping out of the refrigerator, snakes in her hands and cracked eggs filled with blood. The son starts seeing another, younger female ghost around the house, who also scares off a plumber by making him envision maggots pouring out of the faucet. Despite the many weird things happening and the son growing ill / anemic due to a blue-faced old ghost drinking his blood while he sleeps, Shang-Chih takes Man Chun to see a doctor. Naturally he tells her it's all in her head and prescribes medication that keeps her zonked out most of the time.






In her human life, Huei Chuan (the younger female ghost / succubus) was abandoned by her lover after he knocked her up and died in a bloodbath after attempting to give herself a clothes hanger abortion. Now she has her sights set on Shang-Chih. She watches the couple have sex and then, due to the wife's drug-induced low energy, lends a helping hoo-ha by possessing her and using her body to have sex with Shang-Chih. The horny ghost then lures him outside for more sex near the ocean. The next day, Man Chun finds him drained of energy and passed out on some rocks. Will he finally believe their new home is haunted? And will they take up the plumber's offer to let his priest friend come exorcise the house?






Here's a sentence I thought I'd never have to type: If you must watch, watch the IFD version instead. At least it had some action and chopped out most of the worst parts. This original is a derivative, unscary, low-budget bore missing most of what usually makes Hong Kong and Taiwanese cinema so much fun. There's next to no plot, nearly all of the characters (especially the wife and son) are highly annoying, there's little in the way of visual style, lame ghost makeup, no notable fx and dreadful forced comedy. On top of that, there are a number of overlong bits that will really try your patience, especially a scene where the husband, his brother "Fatty" and two other guys are playing Mahjong and their game keeps getting interrupted by a ghost. It's not the least bit funny and goes on for TEN excruciating minutes.

I was actually looking forward to seeing this due to finding the footage used in the Diamond cut somewhat amusing. Boy was I mistaken. While it certainly didn't help matters that the only available version is in poor shape this wouldn't have sucked any less in remastered form. And I certainly hope this isn't typical of the director's other films since I have about twenty more to view! The soundtrack of stolen music also includes Jean Michel Jarre's "Oxygene Part 4" (1976) and Pino Donaggio music from Dressed to Kill (1980).

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