Movies On Fire: Crunky Horror

Grady returns with this week’s look at crazy Hong Kong cinema. This time it’s the blood-soaked world of weird, crunky horror films.


“Leave Hong Kong and die!” shrieks every frame of certain Hong Kong horror films. All the way back to the Shaw Brothers days, filthy wizards and disgusting witches from Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Cambodia have been slapping blood curses on nice, well-dressed Hong Kong citizens who blow dry their hair and brush their teeth. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region generally regards vacations to the rest of Southeast Asia as being about as safe as teething on a loaded handgun. Non-Hong Kong countries are portrayed as backwards, illiterate, pre-technological civilizations full of barely-clothed natives who want nothing more than to steal your money, give you a disease, and cast a blood curse on you, in about that order.

So why on Earth do Hong Kong kids ever venture into these violent backwaters? What could possibly induce them to visit their retarded neighbors in the Pacific (besides the fact that, you know, some of them are major hubs of industry and finance with cultures that stretch back thousands of years)?

According to the movies, there are three reasons:

Reason #1 - Old Stuff

Hong Kong has shopping malls and a subway system and sushi restaurants and pretty much everything a normal person could want, but Hong Kong does not nearly have enough Old Stuff. There just isn’t any! So if you have a job that involves making documentaries about Old Stuff then you’ve got to *sigh* go somewhere else. That’s what happens to poor Stella when her dickhead boyfriend takes her to Borneo to make a documentary about the Red Dwarf Ghost in the hard-to-argue-with-that-title film, Red Spell Spells Red (1983). At first, things aren’t too bad because the natives keep giving them awesome presents and the native chicks want to have sex with pretty much everyone in the camera crew. So far, nothing that the Borneo Tourism Authority wouldn’t endorse. In fact, they may have even sponsored the first half of this movie. But they probably didn’t sponsor the part where the Red Dwarf Ghost curses the innocent Hong Kongers and they get slaughetered by angry living bamboo plants, attacked by a typhoon of scorpions and jacked up by some killer chickens. In fact, by the time the villagers slaughter a seemingly infinite number of real pigs, live on camera, you can pretty much bet that a) Hong Kongers should not go to Borneo, and b) The Borneo Tourism Authority would have halted the filming of this movie if they’d even had an inkling as to what it was actually about.

Also, if you’re a doctor, please don’t go anywhere outside of Hong Kong, no matter how humanitarian your motives. Dr. Chiang heads to the United Kingdom in Doctor Vampire (1990) and isn’t there for a week before a lady vampire chomps on his neck and sends him back home to Hong Kong completely contaminated by vampirism, which is basicaly White People Cooties. Even worse is the fate of Dr. Yuan who goes to Northern Thailand to find an herb that can cure AIDS. That’s right, he’s a doctor who is open to alternative healing and folk medicine and he’s fighting the greatest public health crisis of the 20th Century. Unfortunately, he’s starring in a movie called The Seventh Curse (1986). Between the Blood Curse, the Worm Tribe, the bloodthirsty skeleton know as Old Ancestor and a flying, flesh-eating monster fetus, things get pretty crazy down there in the Land of Smiles, and Chow Yun-fat has to show up with a rocket launcher at the end to settle everyone’s hash.

Note: Hong Kongers who are not friends with Chow Yun-fat or who don’t have access to a rocket launcher should STAY HOME!

Reason #2 - Get Laid

Look, sometimes you don’t want to go on a sightseeing holiday and take a bunch of pictures and go to museums and look at a lot of old crap. Sometimes you just want to bone down with as many local prostitutes as you can find. It’s just a fact. But noooo, you can’t even do that in a movie like The Eternal Evil of Asia (1995). All Nam, Bon, Kent and Kong want to do is go to Thailand and score hookers (except Bon, who’s betrothed to the movie’s softcore lust object, May). An altercation ensues with the ladies of the evening and the fellows wind up getting on the bad side of a Thai wizard who tracks them back to Hong Kong and starts stamping them out like cockroaches. May catches a break when one of her beauty salon customers turns out to be a secret Thai witch and, after blowing up a ghost with a can of hairspray, she helps May swallow an enchanted worm that will protect her from bad Thai juju. By the time the movie’s over, May’ll have swallowed a lot worse. Flying naked witches, lurching zombies skewered with fluorescent light tubes, blood-licking kiddies, bad-trip-inspired production design, a cameraman tweaking on caffeine, a mind in the gutter and a never-say-die commitment to excess makes this one of Hong Kong’s truly underappreciated fabulous gems. But the lesson of this movie is terrifying because even when you return from your holidays, some of the stuff you did while abroad may just follow you home, because….

Reason #3 - Assholes From There Keep Coming Here

You heard me. Even though Hong Kong has an awesome Immigration and Customs Department, they can’t seem to keep out evil Thai wizards, demonic vases, blood curses, vampires, or, in the case of the Donnie Yen movie, The Holy Virgin vs the Evil Dead (1990), Moon Monsters. In this “Lock Your Doors, Protect Your Children” scare film, Hong Kongers are warned of the dangers of letting undocumented Cambodian Moon Monsters roam the streets of Hong Kong. Ken Lo (Jackie Chan’s bodyguard) plays the Monster in acid-washed jeans, a black shirt (exchanged later for a leather tunic), knee high boots with zippers down to the ankles, a khaki duster, and a huge mop of hard rocker hair - looking for all the world like the kid who hung out in the parking lot smoking oregano and listening to Iron Maiden in high school. Because he’s an asshole, he slaughters Donnie Yen’s entire high school class while they’re on a field trip and it’s up to Donnie to track him down to Cambodia and slap the shit out of him. There they must also face the evil Ma Tian and his Flesh-Eating Trout and Doped-Up Leopards. Being from Hong Kong, and therefore the kind of civilized people who use utensils when they eat, Donnie and Co. firmly trounce this Cambodia caveman.

If that doesn’t scare you enough to get you voting to crack down on illegal immigration ASAP, then check out Billy Tang’s wild n’woolly Run and Kill (1993). All Kent Cheng wants to do is hire a hitman to kill his cheating wife. And you know what, he even has second thoughts about it and tries to cancel the contract. But this Hong Kong hitman has a “No refunds” policy and performs the job anyways. Then he starts trying to blackmail Kent. They agree to part ways amicably (after a little bit of First World violence) but then the hitman’s crazy brother from Vietnam shows up. Maybe saying “crazy” and “from Vietnam” is redundant within the context of Hong Kong horror movies, but making things even worse is the fact that he’s played by Simon Yam (super-crazy) and he was born in Mainland China (whoa, off-the-charts CRAZY). Things go poorly from that point forward, and it can all be chalked up to one thing: an asshole from over there (any country that is not Hong Kong) came here (Hong Kong).

In terms of isolationism, Hong Kong got there way ahead of the United States, so we should take to heart the advice of our shut-in sibling: stay home! Don’t go overseas! Other countries are diseased! You’ll bring home something horrible inside your pants! And it might be Simon Yam!