Thursday, April 14, 2011

Labyrinth of Death – review

Director: Ricky Lau

Release date: 1988

Contains spoilers

Another film from the prolific Ricky Lau and, I am afraid to say, one at the weaker end of the films he has directed.

It begins with soldiers on the Great Wall. A holy man appears and uses a crystal sceptre to make a child kyonsi appear. He says he will use it to control others. A horde of kyonsi attack and, after a brief moment of making explosions hit the soldiers, are defeated by the holy man’s acolytes. He assumes he has won when the child kyonsi’s parents appear.

mother kyonsi
They are fighting back hard and, eventually, the holy man himself has to get involved. He is about to strike them down but is prevented by a woman (a God form it appears) who suggests that he should show mercy as the kyonsi have the chance to meet Buddhism. She takes the kyonsi away.

evil king
The evil king, who has long white hair and fangs, along with his minions attack a procession and steal away a princess. Her veil is lifted and, to his dismay, she is ugly. After a moment’s thought he decides waste not, want not but is suddenly attacked by the female god-form. She defeats him and imprisons him. She places a mystical sword in his heart that will kill him if he commits evil and sentences him to 1000 years of imprisonment. A mystical connection is set up with the kyonsi to draw away his badness over the 1000 years.

700 years later and a young girl helps her grandfather, a corpse herder who prefers to play majong. He takes the latest set of corpses onto the road but a storm builds up and he hides in the cave – round about the time that the child kyonsi has awakened and slipped out of his coffin. The grandfather sees a gem and goes to steal it – releasing the evil king. Evil King takes over the grandfather’s mind and sends him out to do his bidding.

I am evil
First of all he attacks his own granddaughter, who has found a mystical pearl. Eventually the tale becomes a backwards and forwards of the king trying to get the pearl and the child kyonsi (whom he believes can release the sword from his heart). Certain characters are taken over and then freed and there is a lot of wire-fu, bad effects, strange makeup and (at the end) rubber suits. The evil king’s dilemma (of having the sword in his heart) doesn’t seem to prevent him from committing acts of evil most of the time (occasionally he indicates a heartburn effect) and he is certainly not prevented from ordering others to do evil.

The kyonsi parents are raised up to protect their child – though the father does get taken over at one point.

speared crap bat
The narrative of this let it down. We don’t know who certain characters are, what their motivations might be etc. They may well be staples of Chinese culture so, from that perspective, I am probably doing them a disservice. For instance, three baddies come along and I had no idea who they were until they died – and took animal form. One was a fox spirit but another was speared and transformed into a crap bat – not related to vampirism but crap nonetheless.

All in all there are much better kyonsi films, much better Chinese fables and much better wire fu films. 3 out of 10 as it was strangely hypnotic. The imdb page is here.

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