Friday, January 25, 2019

Mo gao yi zhang (1987)

... aka: 魔高一丈
... aka: Moa go yat jeung
... aka: Return of the Demon

Directed by:
Ying Wong

Four treasure hunters, tough guy Fierce (Fui-On Shing), his sister Panther (Sau-Lai Tsui), a cross-eyed goofball with a high-pitched voice (Siu-Ming To) and some other guy who doesn't last very long, scale a mountain looking for a giant Buddha statue rumored to have a treasure in the palms of its praying hands. They use some red ink to open it, which causes an eclipse, which sends down lightning bolts from the heavens, which cause the hands to explode. Hidden inside is a long-haired, wrinkle-faced, soul-stealing sorcerer (Dick Wei) who springs to life as soon as they remove a treasure box from his hands. The demon kills one of them and then flies away. It must kill a certain number of people who were all "born in the times of Hoi" (whatever that means; I couldn't quite figure it out) in order to become immortal. The keepers of the mountain; Master Kin (Charlie Cho) and his young helper Mak (Robert Mak), inform the three remaining treasure hunters (all "born in the times of Hoi") that the demon will eventually come after them. He equips them with bells that will warn them whenever the sorcerer is near, tells them not to eat "divine eggs" and has a special dagger which is the only thing that can kill the demon. Following along so far?

In an effort to track the bad guy down, Master Kin performs a ceremony involving red string, spell paper, mixed blood and fur on the forehead to gain the hunting instincts of a dog. He howls, sniffs butts, barks, pisses on a tree and walks around on all fours. Everyone is sidetracked when they're apprehended by sadistic FBI agent Wai (Nat Chan), who takes them all back to his private torture chamber to have a little fun with them. He beats up Panther because he thinks she's flirting with him (in a scene I think is supposed to be comedic) and then ties two of the guys to a contraption where they're strung up with nooses and have weighted baskets placed around their necks. If things couldn't get any worse, the sorcerer kills the dog Master Kin used in his dog spell, turning him into a werewolf-like creature. After some long and extended fight sequences, the curse is reversed and everyone manages to get out of there alive.

The gang then ends up in an old house with Tayona (Emily Chu), a female ghost who'd committed suicide because no man would marry her due to her upbringing in France. Now she wants a "virgin boy" to die in her honor so she'll be reincarnated. She picks the virgin out of the group - Master Kin - and insists he die. He tries to scare her off by telling her "I have AIDS!" Instead, she traps him in a room full of sacred eggs and each one he crushes ages him. He manages to get out with a head-full of gray hair just in time for the sorcerer to swing by for another fight. The evil one kidnaps Panther and the rest (with some guiding help from Tayona) find their way to the sorcerer's underground lair. There they encounter an army of blue-robed zombie slaves with spikes in their heads hiding in the catacombs and must locate the sorcerer's "pulse" (life force).

I really wasn't digging this too much in the first half. It's unfocused and strays completely away from the initial story line it set up. It's also bogged down by mugging and juvenile crude humor. Crotches and tits get hit, everyone accidentally sucks down dog piss and there's lots of violent slapstick. Thankfully, this improves greatly after everyone shuts up and the action kicks in. There's lots of acrobatic wire and stunt work and many imaginative, well-choreographed fight sequences throughout that'll have no problem keeping your interest. The special effects and photography are both good.

Director Wong had helped write MR. VAMPIRE (1985) and you can certainly tell watching this mixture of horror, comedy and martial arts. Mr. Vampire series vet Ma Wu has a small role as a veterinarian.

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