Hex After Hex (1982)

HexAfterHex_1Hex After Hex [邪完再邪] (1982)

Starring Lo Meng, Nancy Lau Nam-Kai, Lau Dan, Cheng Siu-Ping, Lo Yuen, Yeung Chi-Hing, Lily Chan Lee-Lee, Lau Siu-Kwan, Law Ho-Kai, Yue Tau-Wan, Chow Kin-Ping, Wong Ching-Ho

Directed by Kuei Chih-Hung

Expectations: Moderate.

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Hex After Hex is the final film of the Hex trilogy (which isn’t actually a trilogy), and it’s surprisingly related in a very small way to the previous film in the series, Hex vs. Witchcraft. Like that film, Hex After Hex is more comedy than horror, but here the ratios have been further adjusted so that it’s almost all comedy for most of the movie. A lot of this comedy comes by way of ghost shenanigans, but there’s also a heavy dose of strange and wacky natural occurrences — for instance: Lo Meng lotioning up his nipples, or saving his blow-up doll from a building’s demolition. There’s so many quick little moments like this that I’ll need another run through the film to really appreciate them.

As you might expect in a film featuring such madcap energy, the story in Hex After Hex doesn’t matter much (to the viewers or the filmmakers). The film opens with Ma Su (Lo Meng), the muscular neighbor of the main character in Hex vs. Witchcraft, finding the same bag of golden jewelry that kicked off the supernatural hijinks in that film. Once again, the bag also contains the spiritual tablet of Liu Ah Cui, but this time Ma Su flatly refuses to marry the spirit. He has no interest in marrying a ghost and money does not persuade him. Not to be thrown out in the cold, the spirit of Liu Ah Cui decides to take over the body of a different neighbor’s girlfriend, Yeung Suk Yi (Nancy Lau Nam-Kai), and seduce Ma Su. It works, and they spend a good portion of the film moving from one problem to the next, the ghost graciously getting them out of harm’s way as only she can. A series of hijinks with a flimsy plot isn’t such a bad thing because it’s all fun, but I have to admit that without any sense of purpose it does get a little tiresome after a while.

HexAfterHex_2Hex After Hex does excel in providing lots of deep belly laughs, though. By far the biggest came when the ghost of Liu Ah Cui was tasked with thwarting an arsonist (for reasons I won’t go into). For some reason (my guess is because it’s funny) the ghost is obsessed with removing people’s clothes, so after casting her spell the arsonist is completely naked while spraying gasoline on the building he intends to torch. Soon the residents notice his indecency and chase him out of their village, which happens to be on a hill. I forget how, but quickly the arsonist falls onto a stroller and a quick chase downhill ensues. Unaware villagers throw the contents of their chamber pots outside, showering the nude arsonist in urine. As he rolls past the next house, the woman there hands him her pot and says, “Did you want shit too?” I feel like I’m not describing it well enough, so you’ll just have to trust me. To cap it all off, the scene ends with what is perhaps the best use of the Shaw Brothers fanfare I’ve ever seen. Truly inspired comedy.

HexAfterHex_3In focusing on this one hilarious scene I don’t mean to cast aside the rest of the laughs in the film. There are some true gems here, but every down moment of the film made me wish that director Kuei Chi-Hung could have kept up the madcap pace throughout the entire film. It’s hard enough readjusting back into a normal scene after you’ve seen Yoda licking a lollipop to the Imperial Death March, but to then have a twisted take on Darth Vader come out of the fog, complete with silver lightning bolts on his helmet and a lightsaber that completely removes the clothing of whoever it touches, it’s almost impossible to go back to “normal” from there. And that happens like 15 minutes in. There’s definitely a lot of hilarity and wackiness in Hex After Hex, but it’s like continuously riding a roller coaster made solely of one big hill; once you’ve flown down the hill in an ecstatic adrenaline rush, the rest is just boring.

HexAfterHex_7The third act of the film decides to get a little more serious about the horror side of things, bringing in the expected battle between practitioner and ghost. These scenes — yes, there are multiple skirmishes — are loads of fun and definitely help the film end on a high note. There’s even some light martial arts for Lo Meng to do, which adds to the appeal. Lo Meng is fantastic in the film whether he’s practicing martial arts or not, but watching a talented dude doing his thing, in peak condition, is always a treat. This was compounded further for me, as since starting my chronological Shaw Brothers series I haven’t seen Lo Meng in a movie for years (outside of some modern roles like Gallants or Ip Man 2).

Hex After Hex is definitely the Hex film with the deepest laughs, but it’s also the worst and most uneven of the three films. “Worst” is a strong word, though, as I really did enjoy this despite its slow moments. It feels like it could have been better than it was, given a bit of tightening or a more focused tone. But whatever, it has Yoda and I like Yoda, so I therefore approve of this film. How’s that for film criticism?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljDbjpfXgms

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