Black Magic 2 [勾魂降頭] (1976)
AKA Revenge of the Zombies
Starring Ti Lung, Tanny Tien Ni, Lo Lieh, Wai Wang, Lily Li Li-Li, Lam Wai-Tiu, Terry Lau Wai-Yue, Yeung Chi-Hing, Lam Fung
Directed by Ho Meng-Hua
Expectations: High, although they are lowered a bit after seeing the first one.
[Note: Due to the nature of Black Magic 2, the most interesting things to talk about are how it deviates from and plays with the black magic formula, so this review could be considered to be fairly spoiler heavy. I apologize, but if you’re interested in this worm-filled, nasty little horror sub-genre, you really should just watch Black Magic 2 before reading about it.]
Usually you expect a sequel to continue the story of the original film, but director Ho Meng-Hua and prolific screenwriter Ni Kuang decided to do something different with Black Magic 2. Instead of continuing on with the same characters and telling more of their story, Black Magic 2 treats the black magic itself as the “character” worth exploring further in the sequel. Of course, the audience reaps the benefits, as this sequel is nastier, nuttier and a whole lot funner to watch. And since the twisted ways of Southeast Asian black magic are our main focus, it makes sense that the evil black magic practitioner (played wonderfully by Lo Lieh) is essentially the star of the film.
Unlike other black magic films, this one does not revolve around a cautionary tale of extramarital sex leading people into a web of black magic. Don’t mistake that to mean that there’s no extramarital sex leading to black magic (because there’s lots), but here it’s more black magic leading to extramarital sex. This key difference is because of our focus on the evil practitioner Kang Cong (no relation to King Kong), so we see most of the events from his perspective. And he’s not some old kook living in a shack in the jungle either. No, Kang Cong is a suave, city-based practitioner living in a huge mansion. He is a black magic wolf in finely tailored suits, hanging out in dance clubs trolling for his latest victim.
This important shift in perspective is not the only subversion present in Black Magic 2. The film opens with a short scene involving a white-haired old man helping some women with their alligator problem. He is clearly the good practitioner of the film, so through all the havoc caused by Kang Cong, you feel certain and hopeful that at some point his white light of good will cut through Kang Cong’s army of zombies. But when it actually comes time to do this, Black Magic 2 reveals yet another completely unexpected twist.
The nature of this twist changes the entire game and forces the viewer into the position of considering the peril and the fear that would accompany an encounter with someone as dastardly and equipped as Kang Cong is. In this way, the film serves not only as entertainment, but as an educational and instructional film. I may never have to face off with a zombie-wielding black magic practitioner, but I’m sure glad that if it does happen it will be after I’ve seen Black Magic 2. I may still perish in the struggle, but at least I’ll have some idea of what to try. I don’t know that I’ll be able to eat the magic, wisdom-filled eyeballs, though.
Black Magic 2 is a great take on the black magic film. It’s highly entertaining and it takes story risks that pay off incredibly well, resulting in a sequel that is better than the original film in nearly every way. It’s definitely nowhere near the insanity of Bewitched or The Boxer’s Omen, but it packs a lot of fun, gnarly things into its runtime. Also, it’s not necessary to have seen Black Magic to watch this one, although because that one lays the groundwork for the genre that the sequel then subverts and monkeys with, I’d still recommend seeing them in order unless you’re already familiar with Hong Kong black magic films.