Film Review: Encounters of the Spooky Kind (1980) - The Born of Martial Arts Comedy horror Film

Updated: Sep 14, 2020

#FilmReview #EncountersoftheSpookyKind #影評 #鬼打鬼

FILE PHOTO: A Poster of ENCOUNTERS OF THE SPOOKY KIND (1980). ©Orange Sky Golden Harvest

Hong Kong Film and Taiwan Film Industry Comparison

Before write about this film, I have to grab the general tendencies of Hong Kong filmmaking first in comparison to Taiwan filmmaking. For live action drama films, Taiwan is 33 films (if include feature length animation and documentaries, the total is 56 films) for 883 theatres made in 2018; Hong Kong made 53 films for 55 theatres in both 2017 and 2018. Both regions are in stagnation. Stagnation is the general tendency. Some petty KMT film editor said that Taiwan film production is increasing gradually in about ten years ago however comparison between 27 films and 33 films are meaningless. I had been in Taiwan to study both Mandarin and filmmaking during 2005 to 2011(36 titles made at that year; there are about 4 thousand film workers including theatres, office ones. Hong Kong film workers is about 7 thousands including theatres and offices).

Their economic situation is only getting worse.The stagnation has been maintained for 14 years since 2005. Average 30 titles per year is maintained. One or two box office successes cannot change the general tendency. This is what Taiwanese critics must learn. It proved that the protectionist KMT circle subsidise cannot create the vital industry of any kinds. It's obvious that both regions where have been suffering stagnation for twenty years are not recommended for film students. Both of them are heavily depended on subsidies and coproductions.

Bureaucratic influence on the industry and small circle dominance of film resources are common features and illness.


(Taiwan Film 2018):

(Hong Kong Film 2018):電影及影音製作/香港影視及娛樂業概況/hkip/tc/1/1X3O8SXR/1X0018PN.htm

The number is the almost the same. About 50 films per year is the common feature of both Chinese regions. However it includes student and amateur works that screened at film festivals or subsidised and rated by the state censorship. Thus, it needs further analysis to determine if it's a commercially made professional theatrical feature or state subsidised experimental film project. For boosting the number, Taiwan tends to count student films, shorts into the state statics.

On the contrary, ''Hong Kong film industry'' includes not only films, but also video, TV, commercials and music videos in terms of law. It also affects the result of the state statics on industrial workers and the entire economic data collection.

1992 was the peak of the Hong Kong Film Production (F1.1)

FILE PHOTO: Chart of the Hong Kong Film Production。 ©Hong Kong Trade Development Council

The main difference is that the half of Hong Kong film projects are coproductions with Mainland China since 2003 Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) until present; The Taiwan film projects are made by KMT-related small circles with state subsidies which commissioners are their own people.

CEPA is not the origin of the stagnation of Hong Kong film production. Moreover the Hong Kong government officially thinks that CEPA is fundamentally important for its survival. You see the stagnation started before CEPA signed.

Before 1993, Hong Kong films were mainly local productions or co productions with Taiwan, and the annual revenue was averagely one billion HKD, however 80 % of films are foreign films and it basically makes about 1.6 billion HKD per year. Only about 400 million HKD per year is made by local films and co production with Mainland China. The gap between foreign imports and local production has only been increasing since 1993. 80 % of films you see in Hong Kong are foreign imports.

Discrimination against CoProduction with Mainland China is Meaningless

Before 2002, the coproduction with Mainland China was only 15% of Hong Kong films. The Regulations on the Administration of Movies 《電影管理條例》improved the situation. The coprocutgon films became ''local films'' since then. Furthermore, the Mainland box office of coproductions is about twenty times larger than the local films; the local box office of coproductions is also about two times larger than the local films. As the result, coproduction with Mainland China is the major film production mode of the latest Hong Kong film industry. Again, this was still earlier than CEPA got effective.

Despite its box office in Mainland Chinese market (it hit 7.3 billion Renminbi box office record in 2017; 13% of the total box office of the entire China), the number of theatres has been only declining from 1992's 119 theatres to 2018's 58 theatres. The number of film production is almost equal with the number of theatres in 2018. One film for one theatre in one year is the fact.

Sammo Hung's Unexpected Success of Jiang shi Action Horror Comedy

FILE PHOTO: Center is Sammo Hung(洪金寶)©Ryota Nakanishi

I directly asked the director/screenwriter/leading actor Sammo Hung at the 43rd. Hong Kong International Film Festival on March 30, 2019 in front of hundreds of audiences about this film and his produced master piece Mr.Vampire (1985).

Jiangshi was not an imitation of the Western Horror Movies. It has actual traditional base in Chinese literature.

唐僧正要念咒,行者急到馬前叫道:「師父莫念,莫念,你且來看看他的模樣。」卻是一堆粉骷髏在那裡。唐僧大驚道:「悟空,這個人才死了,怎麼就化作一堆骷髏?」行者道:「他是個潛靈作怪的僵尸,在此迷人敗本,被我打殺,他就現了本相。他那脊梁上有一行字,叫做『白骨夫人』。」 - Chapter #27 Jurney To The West

How he came up with the idea of jiang shi? That is tradition of Chinese culture. Jiang shi is not just a hopping dead. It has intelligence and does black magic as a living dead.The best example in the tradition is Baigujing in the novel Journey to the West (1500s) which is to eat the protagonist Tang Xuanzang for immortal life. It's cleary difined as jiang shi. Cannibalism and living dead were already connected in the 16 century Chinese novel before The Night of The Living Dead (1968).

FILE PHOTO: Baigujing in the novel Journey to the West (1500s). ©Public Domain

Some people doubted before the release of Encounters of Spooky Kind (1980) that the Jiang Shi will be a disastrous failure however after the box office hit gross of $5,675,626.00 HKD, they turned their attitude toward the idea of Jiang Shi to encourage making more films like this. This kind of opportunist attitude is what Sammo Hung hates mostly.

Sammo Hung cinematically incited the beginning of this film from the novel. In which, jiangshi ambushes the protagonist. It talks about its intention and scheme to victimise the protagonist.


- Chapter #27 Jurney To The West

READ MORE:西遊記/第027回

I have to say that jiang shi is more traditionally depicted in this film rather than any other films later made due to this film's box office hit. And you can find other cinematic citation from this novel. Which is the Monkey King Sun Wukong's spirit is summoned and transcend into Bold Cheung's body at the last battle sequence with antagonists.

At the end of the conversation, Sammo Hung said that ''If it works, it is ok without any excuse. It works. Ultimately the most important thing is simple enough that if it works.''

Film is not customised for every individuals as some kind of custom made costumes. It looks like manufactured cloth for each person. As the result, film's creative outcome and success are gambling matters. This is why marketing and analysis of tendency of both filmmaking and audience are necessary for each film project.

Feminist fighters may misunderstand this film when the protagonist Bold Cheung punches and throws Cheung's wife due to her immoral affaires with his employer Master Tam. It is obvious that sexist bias against both sex is equally undemocratic and inhumane. This film is about what trustworthiness is. Thus, betrayal of the employer and Cheung's wife against the employee Bold Cheung is evil; the betrayal of Priest Tsui to his senior Priest Chin Hoi on assassination attempt which ordered by Master Tam to eliminate possible scandalous risk from Bold Cheung is highly ethical. Decision of characters is the nature of plotting in story telling. Of course, this is about the moral decisions made by the protagonists, Bold Cheung and Priest Tsui.

This film is composed by several key social relationships such as ''husband (Bold Cheung) and wife (Cheung's wife)''; ''Senior (Priest Chin Hoi) and junior (Priest Tsui) ''; ''master (Priest Tsui) and student (Bold Cheung) ''; ''employer (Bold Cheung) and employee (Master Tam). '' Others are additional to these key social relationships that form dramatic conflicts.

The main conflict is simple enough that Master Tam hires MaoShan Priest Chin Hoi to get rid of his employee Bold Cheung who risks his immoral affaires with Cheung's wife.

This film is superior than the Mr. Vampire series (1985-1989) which produced by Sammo Hung after this film's success. The reason is that Jiang Shi is not in main focus in this film. Instead, human conflict is more concerned deeper. You cannot see the bad priest v the good priest conflict in the Mr. Vampire saga. I prefer the major conflict in this film that between Senior (Priest Chin Hoi) and junior (Priest Tsui). Jiang Shi like zombies in George A. Romero's works that they are just devices in this amazing film, the core of drama is still a human conflict.

I'm sure that Sammo Hung prefers this film rather than Mr. Vampire trilogy (1989-1989). A good genre film creates a new kind of film genre.

FILE PHOTO: Sammo Hung singed on my DVD cover of The Variant Ones (1975) ©Ryota Nakanishi


Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to the professional film writer Ryota Nakanishi as author and a link to is provided.

This film article is for educational purpose only.

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