Encounter of the Spooky Kind 2
Hong Kong 1990
Directed by Ricky Lau Koon Wai.


It has been ten years since the original Encounter of the Spooky Kind, and the horror-comedy landscape has changed. Whereas the original movie was really giving the genre it's start, the sequel sits on the other end of the spectrum, when the genre was in decline. Encounter of the Spooky Kind 2 breaks very little new ground plot-wise, and in fact looks more like a Mr. Vampire sequel than anything else.

Lam Ching-Ying plays the Taoist sifu, Sammo Hung and Mang Hoi play his students, Po and Hoi. However, more than any of the other films I've seen, this film plays fast and loose with Chinese and European film mythology. Zombies, mummies, vampires, shaman, ghosts, and more pop up one right after the other in a dizzying mix. Add in some of Sammo Hung's action kung-fu, and you've got a film that continues to keep your interest, even though it's just filling in the blanks of the standard plot template.

Po is betrothed to Little Chu, the daughter of Mr. Chu, the wealthy tea merchant. Unfortunately, Mr. Chu doesn't think much of Po, mainly because he behaves like a stupid child most of the time. But he and Little Chu have been sweethearts ever since they were children, and love, they hope, will conquer all.

Unfortunately the despicable Mr. Sze (sporting the trademark villainous gigantic and gross mole) has his eye on Little Chu as well. Further, Mr. Sze is wealthy, and has on his side an evil witchdoctor. It is the conflict between Mr. Sze and Po that forms the central conflict of the film. When we first meet Mr. Sze, he is attempting to cop a feel on Little Chu and Po objects. They fight in the street, with Mr. Sze possessed by the spirit of a monkey that the witchdoctor happened to have on him (you never know when a pet monkey might come in handy). Sze does his best mad monkey kung-fu against Po, until Hoi wises up to the situation and shocks the monkey. Of course, Mr. Chu blames the fight and the damage on poor Po, who has to come up with a big bridal feast for Little Chu, or the wedding will be off.

With sifu's help, the two students set up a small congee stand to try and make money. Of course, this fails miserably (if you've ever had congee, it becomes clear why). His only customer is a ghost, who pays for her meal with paper spirit money. She's not a bad ghost -- they never are in these movies, especially if they're young and beautiful -- she came back from the dead to take care of her blind old mother. What a sweetheart!

By now, you might be thinking, where are all the monsters? Where is all the action? At least, I was. Sure, the film opened briefly with some opium sucking vampires, but where are they now? Sitting around stoned?

Turns out it just took our witchdoctor friend a little while to get warmed up. Once he gets going, though, he whips up a batch of zombies, possesses Mr. Chu, and has an astral battle with the sifu. And that's just the appetizer! Po is attacked by the zombies, who have cockroaches crawling all over them. One of the zombies is a midget. You know, sometimes a movie just isn't complete unless you throw in a midget zombie. Hong Kong movies just haven't wised up to this basic, guiding principle of horror movies. I mean, italian horror has known for decades! This principle is almost immediately followed by: once you have a midget, make sure he goes for the crotch. Who doesn't already know these things?

And just who is this witchdoctor? He doesn't play by the rules governing Taoist magic, that's for certain. He's much more into blood, roaches, skulls, and so on in casting his spells. A hint about where he may be from comes from the poison that he gives to Mr. Chu -- the poison is a very unique kind, found only in Yunnan. Yunnan province is home to a number of ethnic minority groups in China, including the largest minority group, the Yi nationality, who are said to number over a million in that region. Although the controlling Chinese government have constantly tried to supress Yi traditions and institute national traditions upon them, one thing that has survived even to this day are the Yi Shamans. A large body of oral tradition is known by the shamans alone. They perform elaborate burial rites, including rituals for 'corpse cleansing,' as well as performing all of the other rituals and tasks normally taken on by a Taoist priest in a typical Chinese village. However, the magical rites that the shaman performs in this movie do not match actual Yi shaman practices at all, but we could say that the idea of the shaman from Yunnan was behind the original concept for this character.

By the end, the witchdoctor has thrown everything but the kitchen sink at our heroes, including gas-filled mummies and kung-fu snake men. It's clear that the heroes have won by the end. What isn't entirely clear, however, is if Little Chu has really won by winning Po as her husband instead of Mr. Sze. It's been another ten years since this one came out -- perhaps its time for another sequel, to tell the rest of the story! Or, maybe this film is really a prequel, and 'Courageous' Cheung's wife in Encounter of the Spooky Kind is actually Little Chu, the later years. Food for thought.

Rating: Marginally Recommended (Marginally Recommended)

Posted by Peter Nepstad on March 29, 2004.


Comments

I've been trying to find a copy of this film for my brother for weeks. Do you know of anyplace to get it in the US?

Posted by: Jammie Middleton at December 2, 2005 11:41 AM

I've almost finished making my custom dvd of Spooky Encounters 2' it has mono cantonese and english dub options and well done english subtitles (removable)

The image is anamorphic 1:85 widescreen.

For more info you can email me at gregfreeman@hotmail.com

Posted by: GF at November 5, 2007 12:52 PM
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