Curse of Evil [邪咒] (1982)
Starring Tai Liang-Chun, Ngaai Fei, Lily Li Li-Li, Lau Nga-Lai, Yau Chui-Ling, Eric Chan Ga-Kei, Wang Lai, Leung Tin, Angelina Lo Yuen-Yen, Wong Ching-Ho, Lau Siu-Kwan, Jason Pai Piao
Directed by Kuei Chih-Hung
Expectations: The poster is great and I love Kuei Chih-Hung, so I have high hopes.
There is a lot to like about Curse of Evil and its twisted family dynamic and ultra-gooey FX work. Unfortunately, the film is pretty hard to penetrate as the story is muddled and the characters are hard to keep track of. For instance there are a couple of pairs of siblings, but they both dress in the same clothes. I wasn’t really familiar with most of the actresses either, so as much as I feel dumb to say it, they all kinda ran together. But honestly, the writing of the individual characters isn’t strong enough to distinguish them from one another, so that’s really the main concern.
The story is one that requires an in-depth explanation of the past to make sense, and since this one’s only 78 minutes long, that means Curse of Evil opens with a big ol’ info dump. There was once a wealthy family, the House of Shi, but tragedy struck and bandits killed 13 members of the family. Their bodies were thrown into the mansion’s dry well and ever since then the remaining family members (only a mother and her infant son) have been cursed by the angered Dragon King. We pick up the film 20 years later, as Madam Shi is celebrating her 50th birthday. But, y’know there’s that Dragon King curse, so her son, now 20 years old, dies, along with his wife. This leaves their two daughters to be raised by Madam Shi. At this point the film jumps another 15 years, when the daughters are about 20-ish. Phew.
While it seems relatively straightforward to understand written out like this, it’s far from the most elegant way to convey this information. I wonder if this was one of the many unfinished Shaw films that received some re-shoots later to finish it up for release. There are characters that come and go, plot threads that do the same… it sure seems unfocused and sloppy for Kuei Chih-Hung, especially at this point in his career. I mean, this was released in between Bewitched and The Boxer’s Omen, arguably his best work, so something just doesn’t add up.
Looking into this possibility, I found a comment about it on the Cool Ass Cinema post that I referenced in last week’s review, stating that it was started by someone else before Kuei finished it. This is about all the confirmation I need, because it feels true given the film at hand, and Curse of Evil really doesn’t exhibit a lot of the classic Kuei Chih-Hung visual style. But as luck would have it, IMDB actually has a pertinent piece of info about the film! If it is to be believed, then Wong Fung (director of many Wong Fei-Hung films, Rivals of Kung Fu, and a bunch of Shaw comedies) was this film’s original director. Hmm, seems like an odd choice for an over-the-top horror film!
OK, with that out of the way, I can focus on the thing that I absolutely loved about Curse of Evil: the wonderfully twisted and hideous FX work. There wasn’t enough of it to really satiate me, but whenever it came around it really meant business. It’s kind of a shame to spoil the film’s two major supernatural entities, but since this movie is ridiculously rare, I guess I’m merely adding to its infamy. So basically, there’s a bunch of bloody, steel-toothed frogs and a gigantic, man-sized worm thing that is honestly the goopiest thing I’ve ever seen in a movie. When it kills people, it literally leaves their skin chunky and glistening with its thick pink slime. And let’s not just buzz past the BLOODY, STEEL-TOOTHED FROGS! Well, to be honest there’s not much else to them, but what more do you need? No matter how muddled and incoherent this movie can be at times, the promise of these incredibly inventive and weird-as-fuck creatures is more than enough to make this a must-see for horror fans.
I wish Curse of Evil was a better movie overall, but in terms of searing images into my brain, there are few movies that will leave as lasting an impression as Curse of Evil. The core story is pretty good, but it’s told in such an uninvolving way that the movie folds under the weight of its large cast of forgettable characters. But whatever… come for the bloody, steel-toothed frogs and stay for the gigantic man-sized worm thing!
Next week I’m taking a week off, but when I return the Shaw Brothers Chronological series will pick up with the 1974 Chang Cheh film Na Cha the Great! See ya then!