Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Xie zhou (1982)

... aka: Che jau
... aka: Curse of Evil
... aka: Jinx

Directed by:
Chih-Hung Kuei

A narrow alleyway leads to the Shih Public Shrine. An old mansion lies at the end of the alley, where the descendants of Shih live. Up until twenty years ago, they were the wealthiest family in the area. That all changed after a group of bandits broke into their home, robbed them and killed thirteen family members. Only the mother and son managed to survive. The bodies of those slain were then dumped in a dry well near the house and ever since the family has been hit with bad luck and one inexplicable tragedy after another. Rumor has it that the corpses being unceremoniously disposed of disturbed the “Dragon King” spirit and the family is now cursed. That becomes pretty evident during Old Madam Shih's 50th birthday celebration when her son Guozhong keels over dead during dinner and his heartbroken wife passes away soon after. The wheelchair-bound Madam Shih (Lang Wai) is then entrusted with the care of her two young granddaughters; Yumei (Lily Li) and Yulan (Tai Liang-Chun), and raises them to adulthood. Fifteen years after her son's death, Madam's brother (Leung Tin) and his wife (Angelina Lo), plus their grown children; no good son Jinhua (Ai Fei), a stepson from the mom's previous marriage, and whiny daughter Ming-Ming (Lau Nga-Lai), also move in to “help” her as her health deteriorates.

Yulan is now a student studying ancient texts under Mr. Xu (Eric Chan), Yumei is very dedicated to taking care of the madam of the house, Ming-Ming is a spoiled brat and Jinhua is not only a disrespectful thug who stays out late every night but a pervert / sex predator who peeps into the girls' bedrooms, wants to marry (and even tries to rape) his cousin and uses a silver medallion to hypnotize the maid so he can have sex with her. To appease the Dragon God, everyone must pray and make offerings at a different time than everyone else, on the 1st and 15th of every month. On those two days, everyone who occupies the home is susceptible to something very bad happening if they're not careful. Since the new arrivals are bringing some bad karma to the household, and may be up to some scheming involving getting their mitts on the estate, some very bad shit starts happening.

The servants get a small taste of the curse when old Quan (Ching-Ho Wong) has his prayers interrupted when a dead gutted bird falls on his head and maid Qiao (Yau Chui-Ling) gets splattered with chicken blood while preparing dinner and catches herself on fire. Then, some nasty critters show up. First, there's a bunch of small mini-monsters called “the bloody frogs” who try to bite whoever's within reach with their steel teeth. Second, a big, horned lizard creature with a mutant face, human torso and a snake-like bottom half that's covered in pink slime comes crawling out of the well. While Jinhua is attempting to tie up a maid so he can rape her, the slimy lizard shows up to rape Yumei (rivaling the ick factor of the alien slug rape scene in Galaxy of Terror) and then rips her face off when it's done. Now one of the only descendants left of the Shih family line, Yulan has an even larger target on her back and needs to figure out her screwy family dynamic before its too late.

While the evil daughter-in-law and her equally awful son are trying to find ways to bump off the old woman (like pouring sulfuric acid on the floor of her lift) so they can leech off her estate until Yulan turns 20, someone else is feeding leftover meat to a bunch of mutant frogs living at the bottom of the well, staying up late at night sewing something in the attic, slipping poison into chicken soup, unleashing the army of flesh-eating frogs on bound and gagged victims and, eventually, slashing the cast to death in all manner of grisly ways. A police inspector (special guest star Jason Pai Piao) shows up a few times to snoop around but doesn't really have much to do.

Did Chih-Hung Kuei ever make a truly bad film? Not based on what I've seen thus far. While this is slow to get started, has too many characters to keep tabs on (leading to a bit of confusion early on) and doesn't quite reach to heights of crazy, colorful, gruesome lunacy as some of his better films like BEWITCHED (1981) and THE BOXER'S OMEN (1983), this still manages to come through in a big way by the end. It's clear someone saw the bizarre 1953 horror-mystery THE MAZE (an obscure and random source to crib from if there ever was one!), and decided to do an updated version of it by adding gore, slime and sex to the mix. Kuei did pretty much the exact same thing with HEX (1980); a version of the French suspense classic Les diaboliques (1955), which began as a rather routine updating of the original before going its own crazy direction.

Though I can't give this too high of a rating because of its uneven nature, rest assure your patience for enduring the rocky first half will be rewarded and then some by the final reel, which features two decapitations, eyes ripped from their sockets, Pepto Bismol colored blood, multiple rapes (monster and human alike), numerous hand puppet frog attacks, metal fangs ripping off chunks of flesh, a pit of skeletons, cool underground catacombs, a mummified baby, full female nudity, enough eye close-ups to make Lucio Fulci jealous and much much more. It all builds to a busy and utterly priceless climax with one wacky plot twist after another (plus a flashback) trotted out. The cast is pretty good, too, with especially memorable turns contributed by vets Lang Wai and Ching-Ho Wong, who shines as the household's longtime butler. Of course a lot of this is completely and utterly ridiculous, but that's all just part of the fun.

According to some sources, Curse was actually started by Shaw Brothers regular director Fung Wong but finished by Kuei. Judging by the end results, this has Kuei's stamp all over it so Wong couldn't have directed too much of this. Unlike most other SB films, this one's never been officially released on DVD. As a result, it's one of their harder horror titles to find. What is currently available is a substandard, though watchable, print with English subs.

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