JANUARY 5, 2010
Prior to the start of Dead Curse (Hong Kong: Meng Gui Po Ren), I joked that we should call up Dreamworks and inform them that there was an Asian ghost film that they had not yet remade, and try to secure the rights before someone else found out about it. So I was surprised to see how much of the groundwork for the typical J-Horror remake was seemingly laid in this film: it’s actually about a pissed off ghost seeking revenge against a woman and her small child. Sound familiar?
Of course, it’s also a mid 80s Hong Kong horror movie (one being shown at Brian Quinn’s sort of Grindhouse Night spinoff series), which means it’s also pretty goofy, occasionally features martial arts for no discernible reason, and has been apparently translated by a drunken four year old. And it’s also as obscure as can be physically possible; while none of the previous films have had wealthy IMDb pages, Dead Curse’s page is a ghost town even by those standards. My inquiry as to whether or not the film was horror turned into “has this movie actually been SEEN before?” - the page has not one external review, user comment, or message board posting. Christ, the goddamn CAST isn’t even listed, and, needless to say, it didn’t help me learn if it was horror or not.
Luckily it was, with a ghost trying to get revenge on the family of a cop who interrupted her attempt to sacrifice a child. To do this, she... well, shit, I already forget. Most of the movie was just a series of scenes in which our heroine wanders between the homes of a few other characters, seeking information. The cop gets killed about halfway through, but otherwise I don’t think anyone actually died until the end (not the most effective revenge-seeking ghost). There are also a pair of little child ghosts (dubbed "Mr and Mrs. ET" by a little kid whose sex was a bit of a mystery to me) leading the kid around and failing to kill him/her, despite several opportunities. In fact, the night’s 2nd film had a little kid constantly being put in danger but not dying, which was upsetting to me. You can’t blue-ball horrible people like me twice in one night! If I owned it, I would have gone home and watched Who Can Kill A Child twice in order to make up for it.
The translation errors kept me entertained though. Most of them were simple verb/pronoun mix ups (“is” instead of “are”, “him” instead of “he”, that sort of thing), but there were a few scenes that I simply had no idea what the fuck they were supposed to be saying. My favorite, however, was early on, when some punks on motorcycles harass our heroine and some other folks, and as they race off, someone yells “Are you living too long?” I think they meant to more or less say something like “You’ll be dead soon (if you keep up your reckless behavior)!”, but the mis-translation made it sound like the guy was responding to the threat on his life with a philosophical musing.
I also enjoyed the film’s silly subplot about the number 7 being related to the ghostly goings-on (so this influenced Number 23 too?). One of the things that they mention is that the Soviet Union shot down a 747 in July. And that was funny enough, but later, we find out that a related character was actually on the plane! Goddamn commies! Also, like Lost with its numbers, I started looking for 7s in the movie and going “Seven!” whenever one appeared, though more often than not they seemed to be coincidental, especially since this was a Hong Kong movie - they usually forget about their own subplots not long after they are introduced anyway.
All in all, it wasn’t one of the better movies I’ve seen in this series, but as always I had a blast watching it all the same. The poor translation and gonzo storytelling are always worth a few laughs, and the crowd is always appreciative (but not annoying). There’s no place I would rather watch Dead Curse, I guarantee it.
What say you?