The Dark Side

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China’s horror film industry is alive and kicking; but can it survive a government ban?

The cold, dark atmosphere inside a movie theater helps create a certain ambiance, especially when watching horror films about things that go bump in the night.

As with other countries, China has injected elements of its culture into frightening themes and creatures in feature films. Some horror flick makers even throw in a dash of other genres to satisfy as many moviegoers as they can.

Following are some of the flicks that have amused and spooked Chinese moviegoers in recent years.

The Eye (2002)

Classical violinist Mun (played by Malaysian-Taiwanese actress/pop singer Angelica Lee) undergoes an eye transplant, and thereafter sees mysterious figures that seem to foretell grisly deaths. The film is directed by twins Danny Pang Fat and Oxide Pang Chun—aka the Pang Brothers—who hail from Hong Kong. The movie was so popular that it earned an estimated 4.5 million Singaporean dollars, spawned two sequels (Eye 2 and Eye 10) and two remakes: a similarly titled 2008 Hollywood version starring actress Jessica Alba and Naina (2005) from India.

The Eye 2 (2004)

The follow up to the 2002 film has a different storyline. But the lead character’s ability to see ghosts remained. Soft-core-porn actress Hsu Qi plays Joey, a woman who reluctantly lets her unborn baby become the reincarnation of her boyfriend’s dead wife. The Pang Brothers also directed the 95-minute film.

Bio Zombie (1998)

Bio Zombie is a horror-comedy flick about two young men who run a video store inside a mall. The two guys give a dying businessman a soft drink—which turns him into a flesh-eating zombie who wreaks havoc on mall-goers. Totally unexpected but somehow strangely engrossing, the movie stars Jordan Chan Siu-Chun. (The Hong Kong artist became famous for infusing Cantopop with hip-hop juice.)

The Twins Effect (2003)

When recording artists become real famous, starring in a movie seems like a knee-jerk option. That’s exactly what happened to Cantopop duo Gillian Chung and Charlene Choi. (Chen and Chung had some nude photos plastered all over the Internet last January, forcing the two to take a leave from show business.) Known in the music world as “Twins,” the duo play the lead roles in The Twins Effect. Chung is Gypsy, assistant to top vampire slayer Reeve (Ekin Cheng). Choi is Helen, who is romantically linked to vampire prince Kazaf (played by Edison Chen). Reeve, Gypsy, and Helen jump into action when they learn of an evil Duke’s attempt to collect Kazaf’s blood, which he will use to unleash a new age of darkness on earth. Jackie Chan makes a cameo appearance in the film.

A Chinese Ghost Story (1987)

Loosely based on a short story written during the Qing Dynasty, A Chinese Ghost Story is a tale about a tax collector named Ning (Leslie Cheung). Ning is forced to seek shelter in a haunted temple after being turned away by locals who obviously resent his presence. He meets swordsman Master Yan (Wu Ma) and Nie (Joey Wong). Ning discovers the latter is a ghost subservient to the Tree Demon dwelling in a tree outside the temple. Ning does all he can to set Nie free. The film was a big hit, boosted Cheung’s popularity in Japan, and started a trend of folkloric ghost films in the HK film industry. The film earned more than 18 million HK dollars. Two more sequels (released in 1990 and 1991) followed.

Inner Senses (2002)

This was the last film of Cantopop superstar Leslie Cheung before he committed suicide by jumping off the 24th floor of Hong Kong’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel in April 2003. In the movie, Yan (Karena Lam) begins seeing ghosts and consults psychologist Jim Law (Cheung) about it. Law regards Yan’s visions as mere figments of the imagination. Soon, his suspicions are confirmed when Law himself sees the same things she sees, and unravels a mystery of a forgotten past. The film received various nominations at the 2002 Hong Kong Film Awards, the Golden Horse Awards, and the Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards.

The Untold Story (1993)

Trouble starts when rotten human remains wash up on a beach. The cops trace it back to the Eight Immortals restaurant run by Wong Chi Hang (Anthony Wong). It turns out that creepy Wong murdered the restaurant’s previous owner and his family—and ground them up to serve as fillings for pork buns served at the restaurant! By far more grisly than anything recently produced in Hollywood, such as Silence of the Lambs. The film won for Anthony Wong the Best Actor plum at the 1993 Hong Kong Film Awards.

Print ed: 11/08


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