Monday, August 27, 2007

Spooky Encounters – review


Directed by: Sammo Hung Kam-Bo

Release Date: 1980

Contains spoilers

This film is often cited as the progenitor of the kyonsi, or hopping vampire, movies. In truth, Leila (of Leila's Vampire Movies) has discovered an earlier film – the 1979 movie “The Shadow Boxing” – but it is little known and this is the first better known movie to have the traditional Chinese form of vampire.

It should also be said that the kyonsi in this is under the control of a wizard, raised specifically for its task and the film contains lore not later used by other movies.

attacked by the mirror ghostThe film is about Courageous Cheung (Sammo Hung Kam-Bo) and his spooky encounters begins with a dream about ghosts. Next, in a bet for a meal, he accidentally comes across another ghost that tries to pull him through a mirror. Of course it is not ghosts we are bothered about here.

Cheung and his wifeCheung has a problem, in that he is a cuckold and doesn’t know it. His wife (Suet-Moi Leung) seems unpleasant from the moment we first meet her and, later in the film, he comes home and (almost) catches her with her lover. Unfortunately her lover is the rich Master Tam (Ha Wong), who is also Cheung’s boss.

Lung Chan as Chin HoiTo stop Cheung discovering the truth, Master Tam decides he must die. However Cheung knows Kung Fu and so Tam hires a wizard, Chin Hoi (Lung Chan), to kill him through magic. Cheung is tricked into taking a bet that he cannot spend a night in a certain temple but Chin Hoi’s good brother, Tsui (Fat Chung), tips Cheung off and tells him how to survive.

A Kyonsi risesWith Cheung locked in the temple, Chin Hoi raises a Kyonsi (Biao Yuen) to kill him. However Cheung follows the instructions he was given, with some unfortunate but comedic lapses, and survives. The kyonsi section here is fairly standard with the exception that it is directly controlled by a wizard and, for example when it bangs its head, what happens to the kyonsi happens to the wizard.

using eggs to defeat the KyonsiHaving failed to kill him a dazed Cheung is offered a further bet to stay another night in the temple and accidentally accepts. This time Tsui tells him to get fifty chicken eggs, four dog’s legs and blood as vampire deterrents. These are unusual even for the kyonsi myth.

fighting the kyonsiWhen the kyonsi is raised again Cheung has to throw a chicken egg into the coffin to reseal it, hopefully fifty eggs will last the night. Only a chicken egg will do and, unfortunately, the vendor put other eggs in as he didn’t have fifty. Eventually Cheung uses the wrong sort of egg and ends up fighting the kyonsi.

Chin Hoi is powering the kyonsi by drinking chicken blood and, when he stops to drink some more the kyonsi stops. Eventually Cheung is able to throw the legs and blood at the kyonsi which forces it back into its coffin and throws the wizard through a roof. With the kyonsi defeated again it is time for more desperate measures – though raising a vampire seemed pretty darn desperate to me.

animated corpse sequenceThis is the end of the vampiric elements of the film, though later we do get the accidental raising of an influenced corpse that mirrors Cheung’s actions exactly. This is something that would be aped in the later New Mr Vampire.

The film itself is great fun, Cheung is a likeable fool and there is some superb martial arts thrown in. The jokes all tend to work, which is always a bonus, but the creature special effects are very dated now and some are just plain poor. It is not as well rounded as the later Mr Vampire, however.

Fat Chung as TsuiThe very final scene is too much, I don’t want to spoil the story by revealing it but you’ll know it when you see it, and left a sour taste in the mouth. That scene (of about 10-20 seconds) aside, this is well worth seeing both as a fun Hong Kong and kyonsi movie and as a historical piece being (very nearly) the earliest kyonsi movie and certainly the best known early kyonsi movie.

All in all, 6.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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