Friday, October 20, 2017

brief encounters.

Got an email from longtime reader David of Colchester saying that I don't feature 'the lovely' (their words not mine) Suet-Mei Leung enough (ever?) on here so thought I'd make amends seeing as it's the 31 days of horror thing and I'm desperate for new readers.

My word that was short and to the point wasn't it?

Encounters of the Spooky Kind (AKA Spooky Encounters, 1980).
Dir: Sammo Hung.
Cast: Sammo Hung, Wong Ha, Lung Chan, Fat Chung, Ha Huang, Po Tai, Ching-Ying Lam, Biao Yuen and Suet-Mei Leung.

It's a dark night in China - well I'm assuming it's China cos when I say dark I mean it's pitch black, could be anywhere really - and our entertainment opens with a pair of burial urns floating around like some nightmarish Kinder Egg advert  discussing such pressing issues as the afterlife, hauntings and Kenzo perfumes new ad campaign.

I'm not surprised because Carol Lim and Humberto Leon (the companies artistic directors) have done wonders with it.

Plus let's be honest Margaret Qualley is so quirkily cute as to be almost painful on the eyes to watch.

But I digress.

As the urns continue their supernatural shenanigans who should come skipping toward then but the pudding-bowled, pratfalling prince of punch-ups Sammo Hung clad in a pair of sackcloth pajamas with a box of Nutella under his arm.

Obviously the urns have no choice but to attack our portly pal, poking, punching and pinching him till finally one of the spirits bursts free of his urn and bites Sammo on the arse.

Which as far as pre-credits sequences go is pretty unexpected.

Some Chinese (and English) words yesterday.

And with a huge bang Sammo falls out of bed - and into our hearts obviously.

You see t'was all a dream in the head of lovable taxi driver 'Daring' Darren Chan (or Bold Cheung if you're watching the subtitled version, me I've gone for the comedy voice-overs), the bravest man in the entire town.

And it seems from the dubbing voiced by a West Midlands version of John Wayne.

Dusting himself down he quickly prepares for work as his tiny of stature - yet harsh of face - wife Morag (yup it's readers fave Suet-Mei Leung, last seen skulking about the background of the fantastic Ni ge mie ye chang) verbally abuses him for being a bit rubbish.

Hurrying out of the house as his wife angrily shakes a rolling pin at him Daring heads off for breakfast with fellow taxi-driving pals Jeff, Tony and Stuttering Mike.

As is always the way the conversation soon comes round to Darings bravery and Mike, being a wheeling dealing wideboy type, challenges him to a fantastic new game that he's been told about from a foreign bloke he had in the back of his rickshaw a few weeks back.

Daring is, to say the least, intrigued.

And what  of this challenged of which they speak?

Well it involves spending the night in an abandoned house and peeling an apple whilst looking into a mirror.

Seems pretty straightforward eh?

Well it is unless you break the skin, then an evil demon will appear from the mirror and drag you to one of the myriad of Chinese Hells you always hear about in these movies.

Daring accepts the bet.


As is always the way with these things his pals decide to have a wee bit of fun at Darings expense so to this end rig up a series of (overly complicated) pulleys and levers whilst Mike drags up as a female ghost and hides behind the mirror.

Daring isn't that gullible and soon sees thru' Mike's disguise, beating him with a stick before settling down for a nice cuppa with him as he explains his almost Derren Brown like skills of deception.

Unfortunately everyone seems to have forgotten that Daring did in fact break the apple skin so when a demon actually appears and snatches Mike into the mirror our heavy-set hero can only stand in (faint) surprise as its ghostly talons reach out for him.

Or to be more precise his ample arse.

Not to be a man to be trifled with (he'd probably just eat it) Daring bravely cuts off the ghosts hand and in a scene reminiscent of a drink-fueled Bond pre-credit sequence as envisaged by Nick Knowles and the team at DIY SOS, smashes the mirror and leaps out of the window as the house collapses around him. 

Margaret Qualley: She's got something to put in you.

A new day dawns and Daring, with total disregard for his friends demise and utterly non-plussed by all these supernatural shenanigans heads off to work, which today involves driving local rich man and privy council member Master Tam (Craig David) to the town brothel for a wee bit of the hanky panky.

It seems that with all the work he does for the local community poor Tam doesn't have enough time to find a wife so keeps his ardour in check with a daily fix of female-based frolicking.

Concerned that his prostitute pleasing pastimes may count against him when he runs for mayor he swears Daring to secrecy with promises of unlimited doughnuts if elected.

Daring obviously agrees before heading off for breakfast.

All this plot development and inane chat is hungry work obviously.

Enjoying a Pot Noodle or two Daring and his pals listen intently as Tim the tofu seller regales everyone with a tale of love and lust.

It seems he too was once a cabbie and spent far too much time earning cash and eating rice and returned home one day to find his wife having some sex with another man.

Obviously - being male - it was totally his fault so he gave up driving and opened a fine eatery instead.

His customers look on in mild indifference as Tims wife storms out of the kitchen and berates her hubbie.

The tale strikes a chord in Darings heart tho' and he begins to wander not only how his wife can afford all her new clothes but who do the ginger pubes he keeps finding in the bed belong to.

Rushing home to check on his wife Daring comes across (not in that way, it's a HK action flick not a Cat III kinkfest) a couple of peeping toms outside his door.

Peeping thru' the keyhole our chubby chum is shocked to see his wife giggling in bed with an unseen suitor.

Luckily for them Darings cries of despair as he tries to enter the house alert the couple to his presence giving his wifes lover time to escape.

And who is this vile rotter?

Why none other than Master Tam himself.

Bursting thru' the door (and out of his trousers) Daring finds a discarded shoe  and confronts his wife with the evidence but being a typical girl she starts crying and blames him for everything wrong with her life making our hero wander off in a self-pitying huff.

"To me!" "To you!"

Meanwhile back at his mansion, Master Tam is getting exceedingly worried that Daring will find out about the affair and kill him, which is understandable seeing as Daring does have a wee bit of a temper so to this end tam hires the local warlock cum Paul Shane tribute act Kinky Chin Hoi (Lung Chan best known around these parts as the scrapyard rapist in Mou mian bei) to get rid of him using any supernatural skills at his disposal.

Luckily for our hero Chins brother Tsui (Crime Story's Fat Chung) arrives just as the deal is being settled and angrily reminds his brother that they have vowed to help people - as opposed to killing them obviously - much to Chins disgust.

You see being a beardy bad man Chin only cares about money.

Oh and male grooming products judging by his exotic facial hair and Noddy Holder-esque sideburns.

As he's heading to work the next morning (does this guy never take a holiday?) Daring is approached by the ferret-like Steve Peng who convinces our hero to accept another ghost-based bet in order to win 10 pieces of silver and a years supply of Mars Bars.

Daring eagerly accepts not knowing that Steve is actually in the employ of the evil Chin.

As in the warlock, not Bruce Forsyth.

This time Daring must spend the night in a haunted temple.

Seems legit.

"How much for a wee mooth shite-in?"

Unfortunately Steve has neglected to mention the hopping vampire that lies in wait there.

A hopping vampire (Or as they are most commonly known - by clever, well read folk - a Jiangshi. See? This blog is educational as well as entertaining) controlled by Chin thanks to a convoluted control system that involves mumbling over a scary penyata whilst gargling warm spit from a dog bowl.

As luck (and linear plotting would have it) during the journey to the temple Daring encounters Tsui who happily gives him a crash course in surviving vampires.

Which is pretty lucky if I'm honest.

But what is this amazing piece of advice that is certain to save you from a vampire?

Well it seems that Daring must spend the night sleeping on the roof if he wishes to avoid the vampires wrath.

Fair enough.

Being a quick learner (either that or easily convinced) Daring indeed spends the night clutching to a ceiling support but as is the way with Sammo, comedic clumsiness ensues and our baw-headed bro is soon brought crashing to earth and dodging the doddering undead demon before kicking it back into the coffin as dawn breaks.

Inside Rolf Harris' mind.

But Darings dangers aren't over yet, would you believe he's tricked into spending yet another night in the temple?

Fearing for his life (if not his sanity) Daring searches out Tsui and begs him for help of a more pro-active kind that doesn't involve hanging off rafters obviously.

Being an occult wizz (think John Constantine as portrayed by an Oriental Noel Fielding wearing a sack) Tsui tells Daring to collect fifty chicken eggs and a bucket of dogs blood, the chicken eggs to throw into the coffin everytime the vamp tries to rise (because we all know vampires fear omelette's) and the dogs blood to throw at it if things get too scary.

Why did Peter Cushing never do this?

It would have at least made Dracula AD 1972 a wee bit more entertaining.

Filled with a new confidence (and high on crisps and Tizer) Daring heads to the local shop to buy provisions.

The egg seller however, only has 40 chicken eggs so sneakily fills the basket with 10 duck eggs too.

Which as all students of Chinese folklore know is a very bad thing indeed.

Back at the temple Daring spends the night perched on the coffin waiting for the vampire to rise, tho' if I'm being honest with you his weight alone should be enough to keep the lid firmly in place.

But there are supernatural forces at work (obviously I mean the title kinda gives it away) and right on cue the coffin lid rises but Daring is ready with his eggs throwing them in and holding back the vampire.

And by default causing Chin to fly around the courtyard like a rag doll.

A rag doll with child molesters hair.

On a roll (as opposed to scoffing one) Daring continues to pelt the vampire with eggs which is fine till he throws one of the duck eggs at it which enables the by now sickly smelling (and rather sticky) beast to burst forth from its coffin and attack Daring.

But he still has the bucket of dogs blood which he uses to subdue the corpse and also send Chin flying into Tam's roof breaking not only his control over the vampire but most of his bones too.


"Just remember Spike, first rule of demonic possession show the punters the suit!"

Having enough of all these beast-based bets Daring heads back to town where he's arrested for the murder of his wife - thanks to someone serendipitously covering his house in red paint whilst he was away - and quickly thrown in prison.

Awaiting execution Daring has no choice but to escape (but not before he's had a slap up meal obviously), find Tsui and hopefully clear his name.

But local law enforcement officer Morse (HK action stalwart Ching-Ying Lam) is in hot pursuit.

More hilarity, amusing falls and ghostly action ensues before Daring and Tsui are reunited culminating in Tsui taking Daring as an apprentice and training our hero in the dark arts.

But first there's lunch to be had.

Glad to see Daring has got his priorities right.

But our dynamic duo aren't the only ones plotting a slew of occult-based actions as a slightly riled Chin, fully recovered from is injuries has discovered Darings whereabouts and after a failed attempt at starving him to death by psychically controlling his eating (and wanking) hand prepares to raise an army of darkness (well three guys in pound shop skeleton masks) to destroy our heroes.

Will Tsui's training be enough to protect Daring from evil?

Will Sammo strip naked?

Will Master Tam ever get his shoe back?

Is Morag really dead?

And more importantly had Sam Raimi ever seen this movie prior to writing Evil Dead II?

Written, directed and choreographed (he probably made the tea too) by the legendary Sammo Hung, Encounters Of The Spooky Kind was many folks (me included) first experience of not only the 'hopping vampire' genre of Hong Kong cinema but also of the great man himself.

By that I mean Sammo Hung not Lung Chan obviously, tho' he's not too bad if a wee bit too similar looking to my mums pal Uncle Clive if I'm honest.

Tho' I'm pretty sure Lung Chan didn't spend his Saturday nights standing naked in my doorway staring at me thinking I was asleep.

Originally trained as an acrobat and dancer at the China Drama Academy, Hung made his film debut at the age of 12, honing his craft as an actor, director, producer and choreographer in over 60,000 films (many shot back to back over a 5 week period) before coming to prominence as Bruce Lee's sparing partner in the classic Enter The Dragon. 

But it's Spooky Encounters that really made Hung a household name in not only in Asia but worldwide too.

And on viewing you can see why.

Uncle Clive: Pervert.

Packing more energy, humour and chills into it's opening 10 minutes than most films do over a full 90, Encounters is a bizarre mish-mash of ancient Chinese lore, low-bro laughs and coolly choreographed kickings courtesy of Hung and action choreographer extraordinaire Biao Yuen.

I mean name another movie that features flying funeral urns, monkey possessed mentalists, Taoist philosophy, flame hurling priests atop telescopic alters and the greatest collection of fake moles ever committed to celluloid.

And just when you think it can't get any better Ching-Ying Lam from Mr Vampire turns up with a mustache that would make Burt Reynolds green with envy.

As an introduction to the wacky world of cinematic Orient excess you could do much worse.

Ebola Syndrome for example.

"Put it in me!"

True things turn a wee bit misogynistic in a few (well in one particular) scenes and it's a shock seeing a chicken slaughtered on screen in what is essentially a family friendly comedy but these are fiddly little things when compared to the sheer joy the rest of the film gives.

If you've never experienced Spooky Encounters then go buy a copy right now and if like me you've not seen it for years go back and watch it straight after reading this.

you wont regret it.

Tho' you may become oh so slightly obsessed with Suet-Mei Leung's milky smooth ankles afterwards.

You have been warned.

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