Friday, December 31, 2010

Gui da gui (Encounters of the Spooky Kind) (1980)
HONG KONG --- horror

Dir: Sammo Hung Kam-Bo

It's always somewhat of a gamble to mix horror with comedy and have it turn out successful. Both genres of film are very obtrusive. What may scare or get a laugh from one person, could change completely to the next person. So it has always been kinda difficult to walk that tightrope. Hong Kong films have never had a problem throwing their audiences on an emotional roller coaster. One minute they could be in a suspenseful battle scene, the next they could make you laugh.

"Encounters of the Spooky Kind" (aka Spooky Encounters) is a slight foray into the horror genre, while mixing martial arts with a dash of comedy. Legendary comedic kung-fu star and director Sammo Hung plays his familiar lovable sap, this time named Cheung, or as the townsfolk call him 'Courageous Cheung'. He was so named because of his bravery; but he is soon put to the test. In the opening of the film, we get a dubious introduction to Cheung. In a dream sequence, he's being tormented by two ghosts. He wakes up falling out of bed and to the consistent insults of his wife. Cheung goes out a local restaurant with some friends who want to test his bravery. One of them dares him to go through a variation of the bloody mary urban legend, and a meal is on the line.

Cheung goes to a his friends house at midnight with an apple he's supposed to peel completely in front of a mirror. If he succeeds, he'll have good luck and if he fails he'll be cursed. Things don't turn out right, cause his friends set him up for a prank with one of them dressed as a the ghostly woman that's supposed to appear in the mirror. One of Cheung's friends does indeed see the ghost though, and high tails it out of there. His other friend, the one who put him up to it agree's to get Cheung's next meal, that is until the lady in the mirror pulls him in. Alone now, Cheung is confronted by the ghost and stands to meet the same fate, but narrowly escapes with his life as the house crumbles to the ground.

Cheung retains his rep, but soon has much bigger issues to deal with. He appears to be a chauffeur for a wealthy politician named. Master Tam who only comes to Cheung's village for an extra-marital affair. Cheung has lunch with some friends while getting the hint about infidelity from the local merchant, yet must contend with suspicions of his wife. By chance, he comes across two peeping toms at his window staring at a couple in his house. We see that it is Master Tam with Cheung's wife, who flees the scene of the crime before Cheung busts in on them.

Like the biblical King David, Master Tam goes to sinister lengths to cover up his infidelity. With the advice of an assistant, he plots to kill Cheung, but instead of simple murder, they go the supernatural of using black magic against him. They pay a greedy local taoist sorcerer to do the job, but his younger brother Tsui (played by legendary kung fu star Fat Chung), disapproves of his older brothers intentions, and decides to help the unbeknownst victim; Cheung.

Cheung is set-up again to test his bravery, this time by someone working with the sorcerer. A man follows Cheung and wagers him some money if he sleep overnight in a temple. Tsui is onto them, and goes to Cheung's assistance about what to do to survive the night. After surviving a harrowing battle with a jiang shi or hopping vampire (performed by Hung and Chan contemporary Biao Yuen in heavy makeup) Cheung is met with another wager to sleep in the temple. Tsui of course assists with some weaponry to combat his older brother's magic. Night two proves more difficult as Cheung gets into a physical confrontation against the undead.

He does, however survive again, so Master Tam devises a plan to frame him for the murder of his wife. He's jailed and escapes becoming a fugitive to find out who killed his wife. When he teams with Tsui again, they discover he's been framed by Master Tam and is behind the corrupt sorcerer's intention to kill him. It soon leads them both into an all-out battle of supernatural warfare.

"Encounters of the Spooky Kind" features some pretty decent special effects, and the martial arts expertise of Sammo Hung. The film uses a score that lifts bits of Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining", but that's hardly even an issue once you get into it. Hung definitely holds the balance of kung-fu and comedy pretty tight, but if you're looking for scary horror, you won't find much here. Keep a lookout for "Kung-fu Hustle"s Sui-Lung Leung as one of the peeping tom's.