A Chinese Ghost Story (1987)

chineseghoststoryTonight’s film of choice is a peculiar one, in that it’s not a film you can easily put into a box. If you believe Wikipedia then this is a horror film, but although it has horror elements, it’s not quite a horror film. It’s more like a romantic folklore-based fantasy with a humorous touch. That’s about the best way I can describe it, and it’s actually quite a good film. Unabashedly original and teeming with flair, this film is perhaps a very good choice for those who get a good kick out of well-done fantasy. In other words, this is my sort of film.

The story revolves around a man named Ning Tsai-Shen, a debt collector who arrives in a small town to carry out his job. Of course, nobody gives him shelter for the night when it rains, so he spends the night in a haunted temple. While there, a Taoist swordsman, Yin Che-Hsia, warns him to stay out of trouble, and he also meets a beautiful woman named Nieh Hsiao-Tsing, who he falls in love with. However, she is a ghost bound for all eternity to serve an evil tree demon for as long as she remains buried near the tree.

In all honesty, I think the premise reads like an interesting tale, keeping in mind that this isn’t an overly serious film. Of course, since the film was released in Hong Kong, it was nice that I found a subtitled version, and the translations were actually quite consistent, though I don’t know if they were necessarily accurate. In terms of substance, the film’s intermittent comedic approach seems to help the film, since I don’t really believe it’s a horror film, not if it has upbeat music on the title screen.

Regarding the characters, I think the actors performed rather well. The main actors did a good job, though I think the best performance came from the man who played the swordsman Yin, if mainly because of the hilarious musical number he does in the middle of the film. It seems like it would be jarring, but it’s so ridiculous that it actually scored big laughs from this reviewer.

The film’s speciality is definitely presentation. There’s certainly plenty of stylish set pieces, and the film’s flair maintains a constant presence throughout. The special effects were actually quite good, and compared to other similar films I’ve been seeing over the past two months, its a marked improvement. Added to that would be lovely musical score, along with the typical Hong Kong-style action choreography, which comes into play irregularly, but it’s evident that the producers implemented them with care.

All in all, I wouldn’t say it’s perfect, but its certainly a film you ought to see, with its unusual blend of romance, comedy, action and horror elements into a film that’s one of a kind. At any rate, I certainly enjoyed the film, both for its serious and its less than serious qualities, and I would strongly recommend it for any serious film buff.

  • Score: 75%
  • Grade: B
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