The Haunted Madam (1986)
Reviewed by: STSH on 2001-03-20
Summary: Highly enjoyable
This little gem grabbed me from the beginning and rarely let go afterwards.

The opening credits cut between Jason Pai practising an impressive physical routine and a bunch of very cute woman doing aerobics. Wow. I watched this segment three times in the one viewing.

It is often said that HK horror films are not scary because the filmmakers too easily slip into being goofy. Well, this movie manages to balance thrills and silliness very well. Don't get me wrong; the story is mostly a ghost crime thriller, and this is what keeps it moving (and the pacing is pretty good too); but the edge of goofiness is never far away.

Here's some examples.

The angry spirit creates some of his havoc by harassing and possessing the body of one of the lady cops, making her into the title character. He harasses her in various ways. In one scene, the phone rings. The woman won't come to the phone, so the phone comes to her. When she runs away, it chases her. When she won't pick it up, it answers itself. The message is, as the spirit keeps saying "Kill your boss". Just think of all the times you've tried to ring someone whom you knew was home, and I'm sure you'll see the wicked humour in this scene.

Another one is even simpler. The Inspector is saved from certain death by a picture of Chiang Ching (Mao Tse-Tung's disgraced last wife). When you see it, it's a scream.

And I was tickled by the Inspector suffering a flying saucer attack .... straight from the dishes rack....

And opening with the four new cops helping to capture a cross-eyed nutcase (the ubiquitous Ma Chao) who is loose in an apartment block sets the tone nicely for the mixture of silliness and life-threatening situations.

I'm not claiming this film to be a classic, as it's flaws are all too clear. Although the script is well-written and lots of fun, the four central female characters are only sketched, and fairly roughly so. Example - The woman who is to be raped sits around her flat at night, idling away the hours pleasantly wondering when and how the deed will occur. When it becomes clear that it will happen, she is as gleeful as a little girl on Christmas morning.

A pity though that nothing was ever heard or seen again of these four gals, especially after those great opening credits.

Nudity ? Two of the women flash their top halves around, though discreetly, and one appears fully nude while lying face down. Aside from this, these two also have an odd preference for answering the door wearing minimal and see-through underwear.

Action ? Yep, rates pretty well. Jason Pai wallops everyone in sight, and Siu Yuk Lung and Hsu Hsia manage to hold him off for longer than would normally be believeable.

I don't think Siu Yuk Lung was ever going to be more than a b-grade leading man. I find him to be a competent and likeable actor, no more than that. However, I have found his name in the credits to be a very good indicator of entertaining content. Others of his include POSSESSED I (okay), POSSESSED II (great fun) and MADAM Q (wild fun).

This review still doesn't do the movie justice. It could have been a rambling mess, but director Tony Liu managed to produce a gem. Recommended.

Reviewer Score: 8