Encounter of the Spooky Kind (1980)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2006-05-20
“Encounters of the Spooky Kind” is a terrific movie. Sammo Hung has a kung fu battle with a corpse, finds his right arm is possessed and has a mind of its own while in a crowded restaurant and is taken over by the Monkey God while he fights the incarnation of the Dragon Slayer God. It features demonic possession, hungry ghosts, a haunted temple, black magic and dueling wizards. The plot is simple and effective—someone has apparently murdered Courageous Cheung’s (Sammo) adulterous wife, played to coquettish perfection by Lueng Suet-Mei and Cheung is the only suspect. Cheung’s boss, who has been sleeping with Cheung’s wife, is framing him for the murder. The boss has hired a wizard to kill him and, for good measure, bribes a corrupt police commander to either bring Cheung or kill him. It is a hopeless situation which gets worse for the characters as the movie unspools but which we know will be resolved by the ninety minute mark.

Cheung encounters a good wizard who helps him ward off the spells of the evil wizard, apparently out of a sense of duty toward a supernatural code which says that those with powers from the gods shouldn’t use them for profit. He also has to spend a couple of harrowing nights in a tomb, which would be tough enough under normal circumstances—whatever one would consider normal when surrounded by rotting corpses—but the evil mao priest has some really evil tricks. He energizes the dead occupants of the tomb, frightening enough in itself, but also controls their movements so that Cheung is not only scared half to death but has to fight his way out of the death chamber. Peter Chan Lung as the apostate wizard really throws himself into the role. Much of his fierce channeling of evil, which involved a lot of sweating, grimacing and being tossed into the air by demonic forces, could have been improvised on the days it was shot. Chung Faat has less to do until the finale but has better costuming and makeup, especially his very odd mustache. Tai Bo was appropriately oily and repellent as Advisor Lam; Huang Ha as the devious boss rounded out a very able cast.

There is plenty of impeccably choreographed and executed action with Sammo always in the middle of things. Some of the high falls looked extremely dangerous and some of the moves that Sammo or his stunt double accomplished in the restaurant scene—flipping over in the air and landing on his back, for example—looked quite painful. The final battle between the good guys—Sammo and his priestly backer against the evil priest and a possessed fighter was very well done, with both Sammo and his adversary having been taken over by supernatural forces. One of the last obstacles to the good guys winning was the little known adage that when two priests have equal powers the one with the highest altar will win. The way that the good wizard dealt with this problem was ingenious and funny.

The very last scene—actually the very last couple of shots—are quite shocking, at least to a western audience but completely in keeping with the ethos of Hong Kong cinema as I have come to understand it and very much in line with everything that has gone before it.

Highly recommended.
Reviewer Score: 9