Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Fei yue yin yang jie (1989)

... aka: Deceased Lady
... aka: Fly Past Yin Yang Circle
... aka: Go Through Ghosts
... aka: Spirit Love

Directed by:
Shan-Hsi Ting

It's the grand opening of the Ginny Hotel and we're in for a night of streamers, balloons, fireworks, tacky Roman-themed decorations, gratuitous self-congratulation, a truly horrific song-and-dance number titled “Drinking Me Is Like Drinking Spring” and, uh, a morbid suicide prank. Glamorous, bitchy and cruel hotel namesake Ginny (Joey Wang aka Joey Wong aka Cho-Yin Wong), the face of the hotel and a line of sell-through merchandise (like the “Spring Nectar” drink), newly assigned Vice President and apparently also the evening's entertainment, decides to give the patrons an unexpected thrill they'll never forget when she unveils a strange six-armed statue in honor of the deceased Phil (Ya-Tung Sun). Phil was the architect who helped designed the building, was fired and then committed suicide leaping to his death a year before the hotel's completion. He was also Ginny's lover and ended up dying in her arms. Just to remind her co-workers and the shareholders of something they all would just assume forget, she has someone push a bloodied mannequin off the roof with a note attached congratulating everyone on the opening.

Despite almost having a heart attack from the prank, the Chairman lectures Ginny about the importance of projecting a classy and mature image for the hotel's sake in the future, gives her a huge diamond ring and then is off to leave the hotel in her and the other manager's hands. Tired Food and Beverage Manager Yu (Jung Yang) and his son Shao-kai (Ching-Huang Yang), who gave up a job in advertising to come help his elderly, indebted dad and has just been assigned the position of Ginny's personal chauffeur, decide to burn boxes of spirit money to appease Phil's ghost. The father's been doing it every day since his death. When Ginny sees what they're up to, she interrupts and the fire is extinguished. She returns to her room and is visited by Phil's ghost in the mirror. The following day she's found hanging dead in her room of what they assume to be a suicide.

Stumbling upon the corpse are Yu, Shao-kai, General Manger Sun (Hui-Wai Suen) and Ginny's mentally-imbalanced personal assistant / makeup artist Liu-Man Li (Ming Liu). Fearing for the failure of the hotel and the Ginny product line as well as their own careers if word gets out she'd killed herself, the quartet decide to stay quiet about it, put her body in a suitcase and stick it in the downstairs walk-in freezer. Shao-kai, who was secretly in love with Ginny, goes to her home to mourn. There, he hears singing and finds Ginny's ghost in the refrigerator. She demands they protect her reputation then instructs him to burn her body to ashes, find a look-a-like, tie a red cord around her neck and then feed her her ashes so the the impostor will do whatever they wish. He's then given the location where he can find the girl: Mount Taiping.

Liu-Man Li, who uses her knowledge of Ginny's death to try to extort money out of the managers, accompanies Shao-kai to Mount Taiping to locate the girl. They find her – Ah-fen (also Wong) – living in a creepy old mansion with her granny (Siu-Ping Chui) and a cousin, Ah-tu (Hsing Wang). Shao-kai befriends her, flatters her, takes her pictures and attempts to win her over. Meanwhile, the hotel managers cremate Ginny's body. The ashes are mixed with peaches and blended into a smoothie, which is given to Ah-fen under the guise of medicine to cure her of her phobia of sunlight (!?) Shao-kai eventually gets her to defy her controlling, strict granny (“If you don't behave I'll have the Buddha strike you dead!”) and run away with him back to Taipei. Though she is a dead ringer for Ginny looks-wise, her naive, kind, “countrified bumpkin” personality is about as opposite as it could possibly get. In an effort to get more of Ginny inside and to fool the Chairman and investors they continue to slip her the ashes. This all leads to a battle of identities and a surprise revelation or two.

This was clearly designed specifically as a showcase for the beautiful leading lady, who was fresh off her success with the international crossover hit A Chinese Ghost Story (1987). Not only is she given numerous brightly lit close-ups, lots of wardrobe changes and two lengthy photo sessions, but her modeling photos are seen throughout decorating her apartment and the hotel. To her credit, she also manages to successfully pull off playing two distinctly different characters here and also gets to sing. As far as obvious star vehicles go, this is all perfectly watchable. It's professionally made, well-acted all around and has a decent script, which gets a bit overly dramatic toward the end but at least offers up a few nice twists, adequate characterizations and some refreshingly non-juvenile / slapstick humor. The final resolution of the story however is pretty awful and knocks this back down a notch.

The Eurasian Wang, who's part German, was one of the most popular and highest paid models in her native Taiwan prior to becoming one of the queens of these types of ghost films. She can also be seen in Lake Sprite (1984), The Ghost Snatchers (1986), Where's Officer Tuba? (1986), Picture of a Nymph (1988), Demoness from Thousand Years, Ming Ghost, A Tale from the East (all 1990), An Eternal Combat (1991), Painted Skin (1993) and others. She only made sporadic appearances after the mid-90s and was last seen in 2004's Shanghai Story. Other films from this same director include the anthology BLOOD REINCARNATION (1974), The Seven Coffins (1975), Host for a Ghost (1984) and Revenge Ghost of the Tree (1988).

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