A Chinese Ghost Story (1987)

I do like when the 101 Horror Movies list brings me a film that I had never heard of before, and this time around, they definitely did.

From Hong Kong comes A Chinese Ghost Story, a film that jumps from horror to comedy to martial arts to romance, bundled all up into one slick little film.

The story follows Ning (Leslie Cheung), a goofy young tax collector, who while on his journeys, meets and falls in love with Nie (the lovely Joey Wong) only to learn that she’s a ghost in servitude to a Tree Demon (Lau Su-Ming). The Demon uses her, and her fellow trapped souls to seduce wayward men, and absorbs their life force, via the longest tongue I’ve ever seen.

Ning, once he learns the truth about Nie’s existence promises to help recover her ashes and properly bury them in the hopes that she may be reincarnated.

Joining him on the journey, is a troubled swordsman, and Taoist monk, Yan (Wu Ma), who hides from men, and destroys ghosts when he comes across them.

Together the two of them take on the Tree Demon, learning that it plans to marry off Nie to the Old Evil. Which just doesn’t sound good at all, and leads our fearless duo into the netherworld to rescue Nie and stop the wedding, and destroy Old Evil.

The film falls solidly into the realm of good fun, though there are a number of curious and troubling images… Old Evil’s robes getting thrown open, and our heroes are assaulted by a barrage of human heads, all biting and snapping! The Tree Demon’s impossibly long tongue – a whole fight sequence featuring Yan battling a giant tongue!

Then there’s the dessicated bodies in the attic, and then in the basement who seem intent on munching on the oblivious Ning. They’re a cross between stop-motion, costumed actors and practical effects, and they’re verging on the hilarious.

The best part, in my opinion, is the love story, and of course the fact that it doesn’t go for the Hollywood ending. If Ning saves Nie, recovering her ashes, and releasing her, they can never be together. It’s a tragic love story, couched in the supernatural, comedy, and some magical martial arts… Yan actually uses all manner of magic in his fighting style, from a blessing sword attack to blood magic.

I was pleasantly surprised by this one, and like I said, I do enjoy when this amazing list brings me something I might never have seen or heard of. I know there is some supernatural Japanese horror films coming my way in the near future, and those tend to be really good (and creep me out), better than their American remakes anyway, but this was a Chinese film that I’d never even heard of… And it was so worth the watch!

Have you seen it? What are some of your favorite horror films from Asian cinema?


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