Those who use
gong tau (the Asian version of voodoo or black magic) do it
for two reasons - for wealth or for love, a white magician sagely
intones in Herman Yau's Gong Tau: An Oriental Black Magic.
ASIAN VALUES VCD REVIEW
Mark Cheng looks the dependable type but while in Thailand on
a case, he has a fling with dancer Teng Tzu-Hsuan (China-born
but currently working in Thailand). The way Yau shoots the film,
the affair is anything but torrid though most of Teng's scenes
has her in the nude. Before returning to Hongkong, Cheng promised
Teng that he would return for her, but of course he never did.
later, Cheng's wife (Maggie Siu) begins to suffer from headaches,
needles and pins and before long, their baby son dies after turning
into a bloated, bloody mess. Cheng looks for a psychological reason
for his wife's condition - her "needles and pins" pain is so excruciating
that she cannot lie on her back and she sleeps crouching over
the hospital food tray on her bed. Meanwhile, Cheng's superior,
Lam Suet, tells the younger detective that someone has put a charm
on his wife.
A white magician
or sorceror helps to relieve the situation when he gets Maggie
to vomit out a bunch of (digitally-generated) centipedes but he
is no match for his opponent. Cheng feels that gangster Kenny
Wong is behind the gong tau as Cheng once shot Wong and
caused the gangster to lose all sense of physical pain. Also,
Wong is a black magician from Malaysia!
While Wong is in police custody, he tells Cheng there is a black
magician who is even more powerful and also tells him how to counter
the gong tau. The final confrontation involves semen, centipede,
scorpion, human body fat and a vicious flying head - the most
deadly of the gong tau.
filmmaker Herman Yau is best known for The Untold Story and Ebola
Syndrome. He was also involved in that money-making series called
Troublesome Night. But it is guts-and-gore Untold Story (featuring
human meat buns) and Ebola Syndrome (ebola runs amok) that Yau
got a reputation for his over-the-top films. So expectations were
high when it was reported that Yau was not only making a gong
tau movie but updating a genre which was a hit in the '70s
with films such as Black Magic, Revenge Of The Zombies, Evil Black
Magic and Centipede Horror.
correct. Gone are the studio-bound sets that Shaw used, the new
film has a gritty and realistic look. But for Gong Tau to be seen
as over-the-top, it has to have more of everything. The film has
a Category III rating but that surely can't be for the sex and
nudity. With her full frontal shots, Teng Tzu-Hsuan sure looks
enticing but there is much more explicit sex and nudity in many
Japanese pinku eiga movies.
fans, the bloody baby is a shocker. Not even Hollywood would kill
a baby on screen but there really aren't that many "yuk" moments.
Maggie Siu vomitting out the centipedes? Been there, done that.
In Kuei Chih-hung's The Boxer's
Omen (1983), the hero vomitted out a live eel! In fact, the
flying head was also featured in The Boxer's Omen and Herman Yau
recycled it here. Twenty-four years ago, the flying head didn't
work (it just looked plastered onto the screen) and it still doesn't
work today. The scene works only in the beginning when Teng's
admirer, Kris Gu Yu, begins to separate the head from the body
(with flowing entrails) but with all that digital effects, no
one has yet to perfect a deadly flying head.
The Shaw Brothers gong tau movie, Black Magic, had a strong
villain - nevermind that veteran Shaw actor Ku Feng had to wear
a sarong - but one knew what he was about and how he effected
his charms. For instance, for his charms to work, Ku Feng needs
centipedes; the "victim's" hair (with the roots attached); cut-off
finger; foot prints (in the mud); and, the crème de la
crème, breast milk. Then, there is the unforgettable "rice-pussy."
Herman Yau may have got the right atmosphere and set design -
his black magic altars and paraphenalia look authentic enough
- but the "fun" in such movies is seeing the black magic concoction
come together, how the charm is effected and how the charm can
be overcome. Viewers might feel shortchanged here.
of the film's problem is its lack of pacing. Too much time is
spent looking for the missing gangster Wong and trying to convince
Cheng that his wife has got gong tau. And everyone is so
earnest while the film might look better if the leads are not
so prosaic and are out and about tearing their hair out!
all these seem too hefty a price on Cheng's head as compared to
the "loss" suffered by Teng in Thailand. One can't imagine Teng
to be a virgin before she went to bed with Cheng. And even if
she is not a sex worker, to hope for Cheng's return would likely
be an elusive dream, and not really something to kill yourself
for - she offs herself in the nude, so there's another look at
her naked body. And the twist ending - that Teng herself had already
placed a gong tau on Cheng - only indicated her twisted
frame of mind - that if she can't have him, no one else can. The
theory is that the gong tau can only be overcome if the
person who placed it is still alive. Otherwise, the gong tau
will literally eat you alive.
expecting something out of the ordinary from an "over-the-top"
filmmaker, three scenes stand out - the bloated baby, Gu Yu removing
his head and Cheng burning through Kenny Wong's hand to help free
the gangster after he has been handcuffed. After all, what's a
little charred flesh when you can't feel any pain? But fans should
still keep their copies of Ho Meng-hua's Black Magic and especially
The Boxer's Omen if they ever want to retch up that "yuk" moment.
The Gong Tau DVD (Gold Label) is banned in $ingapore.