Saturday, September 4, 2021

Heugsamgwi (1983)

... aka: 邪撞邪
... aka: 黑三鬼
... aka: 흑삼귀
... aka: Evil Hits Evil
... aka: Hei san gui
... aka: Three Dark Spirits
... aka: Xie zhuang xie

Directed by:
Wei-Hsiang Lai
Gi-nam Nam

Hot-headed, unmarried young man Lee Yao (Alan Liu Te-Kai) is employed as a wood chopper for wealthy Master Ta-Wei Hung ("special guest" Sing Chan); slaving away for very little money that he desperately needs to help care for his old parents while, at the same time, getting zero respect or acknowledgment for his hard work. When he starts to vent his frustrations, groundskeeper Old Ting (Ching-Feng Chiang) warns him not only that it's unwise to bite the hand that feeds but also that he should never inquire about the beautiful lute music he hears on the Hung estate grounds. After all, a young man named Chen Fu ("Kwon Yung Moon" / Yeong-mun Kwon), as well as his entire family, had previously been murdered by Hung's thugs for getting a little too nosy. And they weren't the only ones.

When he isn't getting his jollies shooting arrows through any crow that lands in his courtyard (a bad omen), Master Hung and his henchmen - including the muscular Hsiung Yang (wearing a silly-looking fake beard, Mohawk and bushy eyebrows) and a ridiculous, queeny "transvestite" (Yun-Pao Lu) - get their kicks kidnapping and torturing people in the master's secret torture chamber. Hung has a quiet, sweet, lonely daughter ("Lung June Erh" / Doris Lung Chen-Erh) he keeps locked away inside and it's strongly suggested he has amassed his fortune through murder and thievery.

Just like Chen Fu, Lee Yao has fallen in love with Hung's daughter just from hearing her lovely music, which makes him the ideal host body for Chen Fu to possess. The disgruntled entity then sets Lee Yao on course for revenge against the entire Hung clan. After having a bunch of seizures accompanied by a stretched picture and the camera tilting left and right and then spinning in a circle, Lee Yao goes to a brothel and kills two of Hung's six men. Afterward, he knocks off three others, resurrects their corpses and sends them after the final thug, who gets beaten up and impaled against a wall with a long bamboo pole. And then it's time to pay the Hung family a visit, starting with possessing Hung's younger wife, Fei Yu, who develops hairy patches on her face and smoldering hair.

Robert Tai co-stars as a Taoist brought in to help. He gives Lee Yao a holy shroud to wear to keep the spirit from inhabiting his body but it falls off and bursts into flames. Spell papers and a magic sword are also used and other rituals are conducted but none of it seems to do any good. After Tai and his two assistants are killed, a great, acrobatic female exorcist clad in white (Jong-suk Choe) shows up out of nowhere willing to do battle with the evil spirit. She instructs Master Hung to erect a shrine. Instead, he and some of his men go and slaughter Lee Yao and his parents and then return home for a feast while the daughter gets raped by an invisible spirit in her bedroom. The final climactic duel between Chen Fu and the lady exorcist features her levitating while doing a split, flying around and trying to finally lay Chen Fu to rest permanently using skull spears, fireballs, kung fu and tightening rings.

While there are some entertaining, crazy and fun moments sprinkled throughout, I found this much too disjointed, aggravating and sloppy to fully get behind. The plot seldom makes sense. Too many under-developed characters come and go with little explanation as to who they are or why they're even there. Several awful comic subplots featuring irritating characters get shoehorned in and each has little to do with the primary story and knock the pacing and tone of this otherwise serious film completely off balance. One involves a night patrolmen (Dai-Wai Woo) who has several run-ins with the spirit, including having his urine stream u-turned so that he pisses in his own face. Another features a pair of nitwit con artists with a pug dog who get their asses kicked when they try to hassle a matchmaker traveling through the area who has two much larger dogs. The same guys then pretend to be a replacement Taoist and his monk assistant after the others are killed. Most of these people merely exit stage left after providing their "comedy."

Perhaps even worse, things conclude on an extremely anticlimactic and unsatisfying note. The major villain of the piece receives a bland and forgettable demise. In fact, I couldn't even really tell what happened aside from him getting hit by a flying table. And then they add insult to injury by not even bothering to come up with a proper ending. Unless I saw a cut version, this ends mid-fight between the female exorcist (who is cool but would have been much cooler had they actually developed this character somewhat) and the spirit, who's left holding his own disembodied head and hissing "I shall return! I shall return!" before it cuts to black. Needless to say, he did not return.

Not that this would have necessarily been any better with them, but this is also quite low on exploitative elements. Visual fx are nearly nonexistent and there's very little blood or gore. However, some bizarre / frenetic camerawork, a few good fight scenes and excellent stunts and wire work compensate for that somewhat. The score has been stolen from various other films, including DAWN OF THE DEAD.

A South Korean / Taiwanese co-production, this was released theatrically in the former as Heugsamgwi ("Three Dark Spirits" ) and the latter as Xie zhuang xie ("Evil Hits Evil"). Listed release dates on various websites fluctuate from 1983 to 1985. The only official home video releases I'm aware of occurred in Asia, though this has at least been the recipient of fan-made English subtitles. This same low-quality subtitled version is also the print used for every DVD-R currently being hawked online. The Korean-language print is 2 minutes shorter than the Taiwanese one because the rape scene (which is fairly tame and features no nudity) and a few other bits have been trimmed out.

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