Friday, May 19, 2017

Ghost Legend – review

Director: Ng Min-Kan

Release date: 1990

Contains spoilers

Ghost Legend or Ma Yi Chuan Qi was a 1990 Hong Kong movie that was really hot on the heels of a Chinese Ghost Story from a few years before, and indeed it had an opening cameo from Wu Ma who played such a great role in the earlier movie.

The “vampire” in this was called Ghost King (Peter Chan Lung, the Shadow Boxing, Spooky Encounters & Blue Jean Monster) in the subtitles of the version I watched but, according to the Hong Kong Movie database he was Earth Devil King. Now, bearing in mind the subs also called the character Shi Wu (Kenny Ho Ka-King) ‘15’ I think I’ll stick with the HKMDb character names. But, in truth, he does look devilish in visage also – the vampirism is a tad more energy vampirism (with blood involved) and this is not a kyonsi movie.

sacrificial bride
So we begin with a young woman, Yan Hong (Eva Lai Yin-Shan), being taken in a palanquin to her wedding, but she is far from happy. She is to be married to Earth Devil King, chosen by the villagers as she has no parents to object and Earth Devil King will decimate the village if a bride is not provided. The forest they are moving through is hit by a storm. Nearby a Taoist Monk (Wu Ma, A Chinese Ghost Story, Mr Vampire, Mr Vampire 2, New Mr Vampire, Mr Vampire 3, Vampire’s Breakfast, Magic Cop & Exorcist Master) sets to confront the Earth Devil King who has slaughtered several maids, though he admits to a lacking strategy.

the Earth Devil King
Out in the woods the entourage flees leaving the bride in the palanquin. Hands reach from the earth and pull it along and eventually she is grabbed by Earth Devil King and ends up with her flesh stripped from the bone. The Taoist does confront the evil one and defeats him but not before being mortally wounded himself. We also see that the Earth Devil King’s heart is plucked from his torso and sinks into the earth.

Shi Wu chats up the ladies
Cut forward two hundred years and two brothers, Shi Wu and Chu Yi (Kent Cheng Jak-Si, also Vampire’s Breakfast & Ninja Vampire Busters) now run the Taoist temple but there have been no ghosts to fight since that night. Shi Wu is a cheeky lad but in love with Fu Rong (Joan Tong Lai-Kau). She is the sister of local doctor Brother Bian (Cheung Kwok-Keung, Close Encounters of the Spooky Kind 2). Bian goes out into the woods to gather grasses for a medicine and whilst out there finds a rare grass that he collects – its root is the Earth Demon King’s heart – and then falls and bleeds on the bones of Yan Hong, which he buries.

baby victim
When he gets back to town he manages to drop the rare grass but does not realise. This is outside a pregnant woman’s house – who goes into labour later that evening. Once the baby, a girl, is born the bloody water from the birth is thrown out onto the root that begins to beat and ooze greenish puss as the Earth Demon King is reborn. Also that night Yan Hong visits Bian in his sleep and they have sex. The next day there is a commotion, the baby is dead. The Taoists are sure it is the work of a ghost, which Bian poo-poos until he sees the tiny corpse, which is desiccated – having had all the life sucked out of it.

ghostly kiss
Before we look at Earth Devil King I want to touch on the ghost Yan Hong. She is a good ghost (in the Chinese Ghost Story mode) but interestingly she says that it was Bian’s blood on her bones that pulled her soul into a whole – reminding me a little of Greek myth and blood allowing the ghosts of the dead to converse. The kindness of burying her bones has made her want to serve the doctor – but she has a window in which she can reincarnate that he wants her to take.

dead virgin
Earth Devil King is another matter altogether. He is hunting virgins down and some scrying lets the Taoists know that he needs to suck seven lives (according to the subs) and then he will set his sights on them. Yan Hong tells them that the seven would add to the 42 lives he took two hundred years before and 49 lives taken will make him truly immortal. So he is raised back as a corporeal entity and he is sucking virgin lives. Whilst not the typical Chinese or Western vampire he certainly is acting in a vampiric way with recognisable tropes used.

The film is fun to watch but, ultimately, it is a bit of a lightweight compared to A Chinese Ghost Story or Mr Vampire. That said it is worth tracking down. 5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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