Chinese Ghost Story (1987)

Dir. Siu Tung Ching

I don’t think that many people should rush out to see this, but the idiots that come to mind who would enjoy this on some level are Chris and Mitchell. I can see Penny, Grace, Don, Jill, Joel, John and Marc liking this a little; they’d find this mildly enjoyable, but nothing to go out of the way to see. The film moved up to a six because I thought giving it a five would be a little too churlish. There is some justification for making the 1001 book, although it’s a little difficult

A bungling (in a slapstick sort of way) young tax collector Ling Choi Sin (Leslie Cheung) stays in an abandoned, haunted temple. There he meets a Daoist monk, with skill in both the sword and magic, and a beautiful female ghost. The tax collector endears himself to the monk, but also starts falling in love with the ghost (not realizing she’s a ghost). The problem is this ghost has been seducing men and in the process luring them to their deaths. This is part of the reason the monk is trying to kill the ghost. I don’t want to say too much about the genre of the film, but I will say there are kung fu elements, but if you’re expecting a typical kung-fu movie you may be disappointed.

One of the most interesting things about this film is the way it successfully crams in many different genres into one film: kung fu, sword and socercy, horror, love story, musical, comedy and maybe others that I’m not realizing. What’s noteworthy is that these elements work fairly well–both separately and together. The fight scenes, although few, are not bad–not great, but fun; the love story and comedic elements were surprisingly effective for me–although maybe I wasn’t expecting much. (The musical elements–two song numbers–weren’t that great, the cheesy 80s sound didn’t help.)

The fx is definitely dated (stop-motion photography and semi-cheesy looking giant tongue that is reminiscent of Kikaida costumes)–and in that way the film doesn’t hold up very well. But what made the film work was the fun I experienced with this film. This is not a serious movie, but it’s not trying to be. This is about entertainment and fun and the film manages to convey and succeed at bringing that about.

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