'A Chinese Ghost Story' Retrospective

Although it is still relatively unknown in the West, A Chinese Ghost Story and its two incredible sequels rank among the most atmospheric, imaginative, and beautifully-constructed works of Fantasy Horror to come out of Hong Kong. Mixing high-flying martial arts with a spectacle of flowing robes and special effects, this series is an absolute must-see for any Horror fan. Take a look back at the original film series that spawned a recent remake in 'A Chinese Ghost Story' Retrospective.

A Chinese Ghost Story (1987)

An unassuming young tax collector is seduced by the ghost of a beautiful girl after spending the night in a haunted temple, but the two are torn apart by the evil tree spirit that controls her soul. Together with the help of the Taoist swordsman Yen, Ning must gather the courage to defeat the ancient demon in order to free his love forever! A CHINESE GHOST STORY is one of the finest pieces of Hong Kong horror cinema, and Tsui Hark's crowning achievement within the genre. At its heart is a beautiful tragedy between two torn lovers, but on the surface, A CHINESE GHOST STORY is an action-packed horror comedy that takes influence from both East and West, including Sam Raimi's THE EVIL DEAD, Obayashi's HOUSE, and Hong Kong's own MR. VAMPIRE series. The shadowy temples and shrouded forests already set an eerie mood, but it is the superior cinematography that brings them to life as we follow the wolves and spirits that haunt the woods. Built upon these stunning locations are a number of incredible special effects, combining the high-flying acrobatics of the Chinese sword fighting film with flowing robes, mystical powers, and an enormous demon with a wicked tongue. For all of its style and visual grace, A CHINESE GHOST STORY is met with equally impressive performance by the entire cast. Leslie Cheung is playfully naive as Ning, who becomes easily enchanted by the beautiful Joey Wong as the ghost of Hsiao Tsing. A CHINESE GHOST STORY blends all of the most terrifying, exciting, and atmospheric elements of Hong Kong fantasy film making to produce one of the greatest unknown classics of the horror genre.

Rating: 10/10.

A Chinese Ghost Story 2 (1990)

After freeing the spirit of his ghostly love Hsiao-Tsing, Ning returns home to find his village in ruin, where he is falsely imprisoned in a case of mistaken identity. It is here that he meets an elder scholar, who helps him to escape and lends him a powerful amulet to ward away evil. Back on the road, Ning encounters a wandering monk, and the two must join forces to defeat a forest demon that infiltrates their camp. Fate intervenes once again, as the two are apprehended by a roving band of rebels led by Windy, a beautiful warrior that resembles his lost love. This time, Ning is confused for the Elder Chu, owner of the amulet, and asked to lead the group against an evil priest who has sentenced Windy's father to death and put a spell over the entire empire!

Tsui Hark and Ching Siu-Tung return with the next exciting chapter of A CHINESE GHOST STORY! Hark makes every attempt to outdo the incredible special effects from the first film, and succeeds! A CHINESE GHOST STORY 2 puts on a dazzling display of monsters, magic, and martial arts once again. While the plot isn't quite as compelling as the last, it features many favorite characters and more of the same great humor that originally brought them to life. Leslie Cheung and Joey Wang easily resume their chemistry on screen, but newcomer Jacky Cheung quickly steals the spotlight as the Taoist mage Autumn with his lively performance. A CHINESE GHOST STORY 2 is another excellent entry in the fantasy horror saga.

Rating: 9/10.

A Chinese Ghost Story 3 (1991)

It has been 100 years since Ning and the Taoist priest Yin defeated the ancient tree demon, but as legend foretold, the evil spirit has returned to the Orchid Temple along with its harem of ghostly slaves to trap the souls of weary travellers. A naive young monk falls under the spell of the beautiful Lotus after spending the night in the temple, and the two team with a young swordsman to defeat the evil once more. If you enjoyed either of the previous entries in the A CHINESE GHOST STORY trilogy, you certainly will not be disappointed in the third, as the final film is a virtual remake of the original, with only slight variations played on each of the characters. That is really not a bad thing at all in this case, as the high-flying action, dreamy mysticism, and astonishing special effects are all just as good (if not better) than in the original. Joey Wang returns to the role of the mischievous seductress with all of the same captivating beauty and playfulness as before. This time, Tony Leung Chiu Wai stands in for Leslie Cheung as Fong, and does an excellent job portraying the innocent and good-natured monk. Where there may be slightly less swordplay and cinematic duels throughout the plot, the slapstick comedy never misses. This leaves fans in high spirits as Tsui Hark's stunning fantasy horror series comes to a close.

Rating: 8/10.

See Also: A Chinese Ghost Story (Animated; 1997), A Chinese Ghost Story (2011), Mr. Vampire (1985).

1 comment:

  1. jimmie t. murakamiMay 5, 2013 at 5:49 PM

    The interesting thing about "A Chinese Ghost Story" is that although its a very good film it never seems quite as magical and bewitching on subsequent veiwings as it does the first time you ever see it, thats why i`d advise anyone who hasn`t seen it to watch it once and then never watch it again, your memories of the magic and charm will be enough.