Thursday, 23 June 2011

The Seventh Curse

Short-lived directors and actors are a bunch to weep over, having pumped out a limited number of productions that thankfully at least blossom into a cult following, but for their sake you can't help but wish their careers continued. There are directors such as FJ-favourite Koichi Ohata who are still circulating fortunately, but no longer seem to do the work they are most known for (for us sadly, Ohata has not made an animation in his style since 1996) and there are directors like Nam Lai Choi, who made some of the strangest films you will ever see come out of mainstream Hong Kong cinema, but can unfortunately be counted on two hands and three extra figures. Nam Lai Choi somewhat mysteriously (the dark reality: he probably wasn't making money) disappeared after his magnum opus Story of Ricky, presented here though is one of his far earlier dabblings in film. Seeing the chaos unfold in this film's trailer: action movie theatrics, adventure elements, voodoo magic and superfluous gore; would seemingly point to this being based on a manga much like Story of Ricky. Shock of shocks (almost) though, The Seventh Curse is actually based on a series of books about the exploits of a character called Mr. Wisley (this film's original title being "原振俠與衛斯理",'Yuan Zhen-Zia yu Wei S-Li', which translates to "Dr. Yuan and Mr. Wisely") and there are numerous movies by numerous directors with a different actor playing Wisley each time. However, The Seventh Curse seems to be the show-stealer, and without that prior knowledge, it still seems like this could have only come out of the combined genius/madness of Nam Lai Choi and Jing Wong, Wong being the guy who brought us Future Cops, AKA, 'Chinese Street Fighter: The Movie'!

Right off the bat, the film greets us with the author of the original books indulging his concubines in how the inspirations for his stories come from everyday chit-chat. For this particular story though, he takes influence from two friends of his, Dr. Yuan and Mr. Wisley (why yes, that is the author of these characters, in the same universe as them), might wanna hold on to something, because the following is just any other day for these guys. Dr. Yuan (Chin Siu-hou) is a world-renowned medical expert while Mr. Wisley (Chow Yun Fat) is a pipe-smoking, mini-putting playboy, except for the majority of this film, Yuan is the focus. Why Yuan? Well, other than his medical expertise he suavely spends a night at a glitzy pool party after punching and kicking his way through terrorists at a risky hostage situation in a hospital. As if he couldn't get any more stereotypically super heroic, he heads home for a spot of sex with his caucassian maid, only to be promptly interrupted by a huge martial artist. The intruder declares himself as Heh-Lung and tells Yuan that he must go to Thailand, as a full year has passed since Yuan's blood curse was cast on him. Heh-Lung tells him to stop the acceleration of the curse's effects, he must stay away from sex. That doesn't stop the lascivious Dr. Yuan though, but part of his leg does pop blood during the middle of intimacy.

Where and how did he get this curse? Consulting Wisley, Yuan reveals that in the past while on a expedition in Thailand to find a cure for AIDs (80s) he also failed to do what he was told, as he got his curse because he got too close to a tribe that practiced withcraft (and all because he saw a pretty girl). Yuan's inability to do what he's told led to him staging a one-man rescue operation against a leaping, flesh-eating skeleton that could transform into an interdimensional demon, having his entire crew be slaughtered brutally before being captured and cursed himself by the village's insane sorcerer Aquala; Yuan's curse involves seven holes popping in his body, the seventh and final one will be his heart. Escaping thanks to Adventure Movie cliche's, Yuan is aided by the girl who was about to be sacrificed (she is the missing tribal chief's daughter, rather unexotically named Betsy), who cures his his curse by making him eat part of her breast (yes). Cut back to the present, Yuan must now journey back to Thailand to find Betsy so he can get a more permament cure for his fatal curse, as well as put an end to Aquala's reign of terror in the region.

This hectic trip of a film sees one segment of story bridge one action scene to another, with each scene upping the last in terms of how eclectically crazy they are. At its core, The Seventh Curse is an adventure film heavily styled after Indiana Jones with thick lashings of excessive, grossout gore and ineffective yet endearing horror, with frantic action scenes of well-choreographed martial arts and satisfying pyrotechnics bookending several parts of the feature. Demon fetuses, flesh-eating skeletons, body-popping ailments and expendable extras paint the screen red, there is never much reasoning for anything and it's all highly entertaining, it very much is a Hong Kong-centric fusion of the aforementioned Indiana Jones and Evil Dead, almost. This whole affair seems to transcend quality storytelling with its madness; plotholes abound, characters are never developed, but you simply cannot hate anything you are seeing. Fans of unconventional practical special effects owe it to themselves to see this for the many ghouls on display, the cheap effects and even cheaper studio sets only make this all the more lovable.

Not many films present such a buffet of action, horror, comedy and even romance to such funny and overwhelming effects, with gore sloppily taking centre stage in the middle of the table. Ruthlessly ridiculous, The Seventh Curse hits you with one scene of insane carnage right after the other, definitely check this out if your like madness eastern and your films cult (and in the midst of all that, keep an eye out for how Dr. Yuan's glasses are only frames!).
  • Gore: 5/5
  • Redshirts: More than abundant
  • Warning you away from North Thailand: Successful
-James, 23 June 2011

Review source: HK DVD
Screenshot source: HK DVD

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