Buoyed by the
success of 1981's Bewitched, director Kuei Chih-hung returned to
the gong tau (oriential black magic) genre in 1983 with his
magnum opus, The Boxer's Omen. Kuei is certainly no stranger to
the corpse-and-maggot-infested genre, he also made Corpse Mania,
Hex and Killer Snakes.
ASIAN VALUES VCD REVIEW
Bewitched, Kuei also laid down a formula which can still be seen
in Herman Yau's Gong Tau (2007). A young man from Hong Kong goes
whoring in South-east Asia, with the likely destinations being
Malaysia and Thailand. While Indonesia is seldom included in the
circuit, word is that Indonesian jampi (magic) is equally
man meets a usually voluptuous local girl; have wild sex [sex
scenes often include the girl running topless/naked on the beach
in slow motion]; more sex - this time in the bathtub and/or in
bed; man leaves girl [after she manages to pull a bunch of his
hair as souvenir] and girl places charm [using the hair] on the
man for breaking his promise to return. The second half of the
movie is devoted to how the spell works on the victim and the
attempts to counter the spell.
single parent Ai Fei is found guilty of killing his young daughter
by driving a long nail into her head. In prison he recounts to
inspector Melvin Wong Gam San his trip to Thailand and his meeting
with a local girl. Flashback to those naked breasts on the beach
and some dallying in the surf. Back in Hong Kong, Ai Fei finds
he can't get it up with a woman, either in the bathtub or in bed
[cue to more "attempted" sex and nudity].
when she is not glaring at him, his daughter is seen eating raw
meat from the fridge. Ai Fei also imagines his daughter stabbing
him with a knife. In the meantime, the love locket given to him
by the Thai girl oozes out a dark liquid which results in the
growth of a massive amount of chest hair. Seeking the help of
a local medium, Ai Fei realises he has to kill his daughter if
he is to remain "safe."
his predicament, Ai Fei asks Inspector Wong to get to the bottom
of this charm business. In Thailand, the sceptical inspector visits
a medium and is told to look for a Buddhist monk. The first battle
does not defeat the evil sorceror but it leaves the monk exhausted.
During the battle, to replenish his strength, the black sorceror
drinks from a jar containing animal/human entrails and the body
of a dead baby. When Wong returns to Hong Kong, the evil sorcerer
follows in pursuit and places several charms on the policeman.
is thrown out of the window early on [which sane parent would
kill his or her daughter just because she glares at him or eats
raw meat at midnight?], the less frenetic pace (as compared to
The Boxer's Omen) allows each and every spell to be carefully
teased out and presented.
sex and nudity are just eye candy, the spells, usually yucky and
nauseating, are part of the film's highlights. For example, to
cast the Carcass Oil Spell, the sorceror must first extract oil
from the carcass of a pregnant woman by burning the cadaver's
chin with a candle. [This spell is re-used in Gong Tau, with Lam
Suet the hapless victim.] Hair from the victim, wrapped in a paper
with the victim's name and date of birth, is burnt and the ashes
mixed in a mixture of carcass oil, centipede, lizard and a generous
helping of live maggots. The result is deadly hallucinations and
uncommon chest hair growth.
Lemon Spell involves cockerel's blood and snake's gall. Pins dipped
in the mixture are inserted into a lemon, which is then buried
in the road. Any time someone steps on the ground above it, the
victim experiences extreme chest pains.
spells do not include such exotic ingredients such as breast milk
or sperm, they are still intriguing, such as the Coffin Spell
(featuring miniature coffins) or the Maggot Spell, the Raising
Demon Child Spell or the Death Spell.
magician, Magusu, is played by "renowned Malay sorcerer Hussin
bin Abu Hassan" though it is not known if he remained in the movies
after Bewitched. While the film is partly set in Thailand, it's
a bit disconcerting for local viewers to find the characters speaking
Malay, with the spells chanted in Malay as well [granted many
southern Thais do speak Malay]. Meanwhile, the music is appropriately
Thai while the tourist-sy shots indicate Bangkok.
As such films
are wont to do, good always triumphs over evil though the final
showdown between the evil sorceror and the monk is a bit of a
letdown after what has gone before, and is nothing quite like
the over-the-top confrontation featuring a flying head in The
Boxer's Omen. Catching Magusu at the airport [don't ask how],
the monk throws a "golden petal" (a magical amulet) at the sorceror.
The amulet works its magic and the sorceror decays into an old
hag before dying, releasing a bat-like creature in the process,
which is easily captured by the monk.
gore cinema, Bewitched would have been great if not for the film's
biggest faux pas - the advisory at the end warning audiences against
free sex and the dangers of black magic. There is this hilarious
intimitation that all South-east Asian girls are only interested
in shacking up with promising Hongkongers and that when disappointed,
they will resort to black magic to get their revenge. Funny how
times have changed when many Hongkongers left the former British
colony between 1989 (after Tiananmen Square) and 1997 for South-east
Bewitched DVD (IVL/Celestial) is banned in $ingapore.