GORE IN THE STORE
ENCOUNTER OF THE SPOOKY KIND ****
Directed by Sammo Hung.
Starring Sammo Hung, Chung Fat, Chan Lung, Lam Ching-Ying.
Horror/comedy/action, Hong Kong, 103 minutes, certificate 15.
Available in the UK on Blu-ray 21st June from Eureka Entertainment
Eureka Entertainment continue their stellar work on releasing golden age Hong Kong action cinema, with a particular focus on the works of Sammo Hung, to Blu-ray. Complementing last years release of MR VAMPIRE, ENCOUNTER OF THE SPOOKY KIND also delves into the world of jiangshi (hopping vampires) and other assorted denizens of Chinese folklore in Sammo Hung’s 1980 action comedy that would not only prove influential with its mix of the supernatural and comedy not only in Hong Kong cinema but also on American horror comedy.
Sammo plays “Big Guts” Cheung, so called because of his size and courage. Cheung soon finds the latter quality challenged when a convoluted series of events involving his unfaithful wife leads him into conflict with a corrupt Daoist priest. From here Cheung finds himself facing off against hopping vampires, a zombie and falling under possession of a monkey god, all while the law, led by Hung’s recurring co-star Lam Ching Ying, are on his tail. With the help of the Daoist priest’s former pupil Tsui, played by Chung Fat, another recurring player of Sammo’s, Cheung soon learns all there is to know of the supernatural in stylishly choreographed, high kicking fashion.
This 2K restoration may highlight the shortcomings of the special effects and make up but also highlights the often-astonishing action and choreography that Sammo made his name with. Surprisingly the first real action set piece does not pop up onscreen until halfway through the film. Due to the whipcrack pacing however this is barely noticeable. When it does appear however the action still impresses forty years later. One scene where Sammo faces off against Lam Ching-Ying and his lackeys with the help of a stool displays the leading man/director/co-writer’s athletic prowess and ability to make tumbling and falling look downright balletic. The climatic set piece, where Cheung, possessed by the spirit of a monkey god, faces off against an apprentice possessed by the spirit of a dragon, blends the excellent choreography, overseen in part by regular co-star Yuen Biao, and dangerous stunt work play out alongside surreal comedy. That this culminates in possibly one of the most sudden and hilariously inappropriate endings in cinema history is all part of the films offbeat charm and verve.
This mix of slapstick and action would prove to be influential in the field of Hong Kong cinema, particularly with MR VAMPIRE in 1985. The scene where Cheung has to face off against his own possessed hand will also feel familiar to fans of Sam Raimi who would practically make a career of mixing the two styles to great effect.
This is another excellent release from Eureka. The worldwide debut of the 2K restoration is spotless and the chance to get the film alone like this would make it an essential purchase for Hong Kong action fans. The extras included here add up to a nicely stacked release. An archival interview with Sammo goes into detail of his childhood at the Peking Opera School where he met Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao. Alternate credit sequences and a brand-new audio commentary by Asian film expert Frank Djeng as well as an alternate Cantonese soundtrack make for an excellent package. For long-time fans this is a highly recommended upgrade on the previous DVD release. If you are coming to this or Sammo Hung for the first time there is no better introduction to one of Hong Kong’s greatest stars and one of his most influential works.