ASIAN VALUES DVD REVIEW
When it comes
to that marriage between horror and erotica, Ho Meng-hua's Black
Magic (1975) still remains a highwater mark for Shaw. Tanny Tien
Ni, centipedes, the "victim's" hair (with the roots attached);
cut-off finger; foot prints (in the mud), breast milk and "rice-pussy"
were some of the key ingredients that made the movie so unforgettable.
Five years on and here, Tien Ni teams up with director Kuei Chih
Hung, whose Killer Snakes (1974) gave the Shaw movie a bite of
the New Wave apple. The sickly Tien Ni is the last of a line of
rich merchants and, to preserve the family name, it is Wong Yung
who marries into her family. As the story goes, the family has
now fallen on hard times and, while not abusing his wife, Wong
is out getting drunk or spending his time gambling and visiting
prostitutes. His beatings drive away their current maid but Chen
Szu-chia, the daughter of a former maid, drops by to visit and
decides to stay and help out with the housework.
During one of his spurts of rage, Wong rapes Chen. Later on, in
another incident, the two women, in a fit of anger, drowns Wong
and dumps his body in the town lake. When the lake is drained,
no body can be found and Tien Ni soon finds herself haunted by
her husband's ghost, and is killed during one of these hauntings.
It is then
revealed that Wong and Chen had faked his death so that the two
can frighten Tien Ni. Life seems rosy at first for Wong and Chen,
the latter is now the mistress of the house, but when some workers
try to get rid of some old furniture, they are stopped by (the
ghost of) Tien Ni.
Soon, Wong and Chen find themselves being haunted and, one night,
Wong falls to his death. To placate Tien Ni's spirit, Chen hires
medium Chan Laap Ban (a veteran actress who is more familiar in
comedies). The exorcism involves Chen's body painted with scriptures
(a-la Kwaidan) and the medium's assistant doing an erotic dance
in the nude. If Kwaidan shows only a character's head painted
with sacred words, here, Kuei ups the ante giving lots of shots
of the medium writing on Chen's nude body. It is not known if
this nudity and the subsequent exorcist dance are part of the
film's original script but they will certainly pique viewer's
interest, not that the film isn't intriguing enough on its own.
This is also the only part of the film that has any nudity and
the local Videovan VCD has the entire nude scripture writing and
exorcist dance sequence censored.
The film, which has successfully spawned two follow-ups - Hex
Versus Witchcraft and Hex After Hex, is generally atmospheric
and, while it is littered with a number of red herrings, has the
looks and trimmings of a decent horror movie. The scene of a caretaker
at the "mortuary" hailing the return of the souls of the recently
departed is spooky and fans have commented on the internet the
effectiveness of the foggy (indoor) lake scene.
As such films
are wont to do, the exorcism isn't enough and Tien Ni's ghost
appears behind Chen and, as in the Japanese classic, pulls off
Chen's ears. Midway
through the film, alert viewers might have spotted a Diabolique
twist in the tale that gives Hex its muted ending. Watching the
film, a viewer cannot help but ponder on the number of wasted
lives here. In the first place, it is quite unlikely a modern
man would marry a woman and adopts her surname. Even if that happens,
the couple can both file for divorce and be done with each other.
As the film
shows, the need to continue one's family line only exacerbated
one's greed; led to wasted lives and, ultimately, seems like an
exercise in futility (it never did produce the desired heir).
The Hex DVD is not available in $ingapore.
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