OCTOBER 25, 2011
It’s been over a year since I’ve been able to make one of Brian Quinn’s Hong Kong nights at the New Beverly, but in some ways that’s OK, because I am pretty sure that nothing can top Blood Call in terms of sheer batshit inanity anyway, and if it DID, my head might actually explode. Might as well end on a high note and all, right? But as a cat lover, I couldn’t pass up something called Evil Cat (Cantonese: Xiong Mao), and I was surprised to discover that this was actually the most straight (meaning coherent) Hong Kong horror movie he’s shown.
Granted, there were a few puzzling story elements, mostly in the first few scenes when they seemingly try to introduce every character at once even though their scenes don’t really fit together in any meaningful way (like when they cut from some guys on a construction site to a dude watching a magic show in his old age home). But for the most part, it had a comprehensible narrative in which plot twists were actual twists, not just random, out-of-nowhere shifts in the story. Apart from a few (probably mis-translated) lines, I comprehended the entire film! First time ever for one of these.
I was disappointed in the lack of actual cat though. Our villain is a spirit of a cat-like human entity that is possessing folks, so apart from a cat faced “spirit” flying through the air during some of the possession scenes, and its (more hyena-esque) howl during fights, they don’t really live up to the title. Part of why I was so excited to see it was because I feel there is a severe lack of killer cat movies, and figured if anyone could make a good one it would be those wacky 80s Hong Kong filmmakers, but alas.
The movie is still a lot of fun though. Again, there are some nice twists to the plot, a benefit of it being coherent for once, and the “anyone can be possessed” thing allows for a fairly fast pace – whenever someone is “killed”, the spirit just takes another body, limiting the down time. There’s even some surprising gore; at least two people get arms through their chests, and there’s a wonderfully casual decapitation in a big third act scene in which the current “host” more or less re-enacts the massacre from Terminator.
Plus there were the usual translation errors; always a source for unintentional amusement. This one was better than most – not too many typos or out of nowhere lines that had to have been misinterpreted. Most of the issues were just the result of making word for word translations, so words would look like they were in the wrong order or whatever. And you could always get what they meant: “Get rid of me!” obviously should have been “Get away from me!” The only one that really threw me for a loop was “What a bitter satire!”, spoken by a woman who was angry that a would-be john outed her as a prostitute.
One thing that I wish they had done more with was the charm that could prevent the spirit from seeing those who were wearing it. As it was just written on a piece of paper, I was a bit puzzled why they couldn’t just run to Kinko’s and make enough for everyone. Perhaps it was explained more when I ran to the bathroom (I went a few times to throw water in my face – I was determined (and succeeded!) to stay awake for the whole movie), but even if so, the subplot seemed to be forgotten about for chunks at a time. Sort of like Horror At Party Beach when they figure out that sodium can kill the monsters pretty early on, but never bother to use it to fight back until the final reel.
Sadly I missed the first movie, renamed Kung Fu Halloween from another movie, but NOT the “official” Kung Fu Halloween (actual name: Shi Di Zhang Men Chuang Shao Lin, aka Fight For Survival), so no one actually knows its real title. Apparently it was the Raw Force of such fare, and judging from the final 5 minutes (which is all I saw), I don’t expect to argue with that description should I ever see the whole thing. But it’s sad that I can’t just google the fake title and come up with some answers – in fact it’s amazing that these movies exist with so little fanfare over here, and I’m curious what the reaction was like when they were first released. I assume they played on 42nd street and such, but I think it takes being exposed to so much cynically produced Hollywood garbage to fully appreciate these movies. A screenwriter friend of mine was recently told by a studio exec that they’re not even LISTENING to original ideas right now; only remakes/sequels/adaptations. In that sort of environment, even a movie like this, which is relatively straightforward, would never get made anymore, let alone one of the more gonzo entries like Seeding Of A Ghost or Blood Call. Thus, I hope Quinn never runs out of movies to show, and if he does, perhaps he can just start showing them all again, since I missed a bunch. Plus I could watch Blood Call every day and never quite grasp what was happening in it, so a 2nd viewing certainly wouldn’t be an issue for me.
What say you?