Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Mi yue guai shou (1980)

... aka: 蜜月怪手
... aka: Bàn tay mà (Ghost Hand)
... aka: Honeymooners, The
... aka: Horrible Honeymoon Tour, The
... aka: La main fantôme (The Ghost Hand)

Directed by:
Te-Chien Chang

A famous biologist (Yu Wang) passes away around the same time his daughter, Yu-Wan (Ling-Lung Ou-Yang), gets married to Chin-Hai (Tao-Hung Li). The new couple move into a new mansion and take along part of the dad's belongings. Among those are some musty old suitcases full of papers and a small metal box curiously wrapped with a chain and padlocked shut. When the metal box starts shaking uncontrollably, their alcoholic servant informs the husband, who manages to pick the lock. Believing it's some animal inside, he places books on top and goes to get a trash can to capture it in. When he returns, the box is on the floor and whatever was inside has escaped. They're able to track it to the attic, lock the door and then get back to work. There are more important things going on than stopping a potentially deadly critter running amok in the home, after all... like planning an outdoor wedding reception disco dance party set to a song that goes "Hey hey hey hey hey hey hey. Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha" over and over again.

After all of the guests have left and the young couple lie down to enjoy their first night together as a couple, things suddenly go to hell. Their wedding night bliss is interrupted by a strange, haunting, owl-like noise coming from, you guessed it, the attic. That's followed by a "Here Comes the Bride" record album seemingly starting all by itself. The servant is found unconscious lying at the bottom of the attic stairs, with the door wide open. Chin-Hai then spots a living disembodied hand (!) scurrying across the floor, which promptly leaps out of the window! It attacks and kills someone outside and a detective shows up asking questions the following morning.

Not the type to let little things like reanimated killer hands spoil their plans, the couple pack their bags and head out of town to a resort hotel near the ocean. But something has decided to stow away in their luggage: The hand! It sneaks out, scares a woman in the hallway and neatly unpacks all of the couple's clothes after they step out of the room for just a second. The hand then sneaks out of the room and scares another couple having sex. There's a running joke here that every single time the protagonists attempt to consummate their marriage, the hand always shows up to distract / scare / interrupt them.

But the murderous mitt isn't the only problem the newlyweds face. There's also Shao-Hsieh (Chi-Ping Chang), Yu-Wan's former boyfriend, who still seems to be carrying a torch for his ex and also appears to be stalking them. He not only shows up at their wedding reception unannounced, but also turns up in the same hotel they're staying at. It's probably also worth pointing out that he's missing a hand. After Chin-Hai catches him at the hotel, he punches him out, angrily storms off, jumps in his car and takes off. Yu-Wan is forced to go back to their home alone and miserable, but Chin-Hai comes stumbling in drunk later that night to make her even more miserable. The pissed, and no doubt sexually frustrated, husband then starts giving his new bride the cold shoulder.

I've gotta stop here for a second to express the disappointment I felt the minute these folks returned home. They're only briefly at a hotel and, given the "tour" of the title, I was really hoping they'd be going to one honeymoon destination after another with the hand following hot on their heels to terrorize them. Last thing I wanted was for them to go back to their gloomy house and listen to them go on and on about their marital woes. By the way, the husband is also a big fucking insecure pouty baby who drains every last ounce of goodwill the audience may have for him well before the end.

The rest of the film is downright silly. In order to cheer the depressed Yu-Wan up, her four girlfriends organize a little posse and, during one hilarious scene, strut down the street right toward the camera like bad asses in their ankle-length skirts and high-rise pants, go to the ex / stalker's apartment and beat him up, then return home for a slumber party and start dancing around to disco records while the perverted servant spies on them. There's another mysterious man (Fei Wang) lurking around outside who's been keeping an eye on the home. He's interested in stealing some of the scientist's paperwork outlining his experiments with rejuvenating severed limbs (hmmm...), but he and his henchmen are attacked after they break into the home and swipe documents from a safe. One of the scientist's former colleagues (Wei Chang) finally shows up at the end to explain things with flashbacks.

While this is a truly strange concoction, it doesn't work at all as a horror film and quite frankly doesn't even bother trying until the last 15 or so minutes. Until then, this is a soapy, uninteresting melodrama, with the two leads so caught up in their relationship issues they barely even seem to care that there's a living disembodied hand following them around everywhere and killing people! The hand itself disappears for long intervals while this tends to unnecessary side characters, the boring police stuff and montages of the husband and wife walking or driving around in contemplative thought as cheesy love songs play. Bleh! Speaking of music, the score; a mix of light jazz, bubble gum pop and extremely corny and overbearing horror cues whenever anything "scary" happens, is truly awful.

There are only a couple of things here really worth mentioning. We're all familiar with cat jump scares. Well this one features gratuitous parrot jump scares, with sudden cutaways to the bird squawking and bouncing up and down for no good reason. The parrot finally shuts up when the hand gets annoyed and strangles it to death!

And some of the hand scenes are admittedly amusing, especially where it mails itself back home from the hotel and starts chasing the wife through the woods at the finale. After she falls and is left dangling from a tree branch over a cliff, the hand throws her down a rope she can climb back up and she returns the favor by then beating it with a stick! What's really a shame is that when the action finally does pick up at the very end, some of those scenes are actually pretty fun. Until then, not so much.

I was only able to verify a single home video release from a French company called ASIE Super Vidéograms. Their tape gives both a French (La main fantome / "The Ghost Hand") and a Vietnamese (?) (Bàn tay mà) title as well as French and Vietnamese write-ups on the back cover. I suppose this one tape was meant to be released in both countries though I'm not sure if it's been dubbed into French or Vietnamese or what language subtitles it uses. This also had to have been released on tape or VCD in Hong Kong or Taiwan as the version I watched was in Mandarin. It's never been available in English and the only version that exists is in very poor condition.

Most sources list Tyrone Hsu Tien-Yung (Golden Nun; The Grievance of Meng Chia Muder) as co-director, though the actual credits only give him a "planning" credit.

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