Seeding Of A Ghost (Zhong gui)
Hong Kong (1983) Dir. Chuan Yang
Cab drivers must be very confident people as they never know whom they might pick up, whether the customer is pleasant and chatty or a drunken slob about to redecorate the upholstery, yet they still go out night after night to drive strangers around. I wonder how may wished they had another job?
A man (Hussein Abu Hassan), being chased by villagers for defiling graves, runs into the path of cab driver Chow (Philip Ko) but instead of being run over, he appears in the back of the cab. The stranger admits he is a black magic shaman and warns Chow that their meeting will only cause suffering for Chow and those close to him. Shortly after, Chow’s wife Irene (Maria Jo) begins an affair with smarmy gambler Anthony Fong (Norman Chu) after meeting at the casino where she works.
Because Fong refuses to divorce his wife, Irene ends things with Fong, walking out on him during a nighttime drive, but she is followed by two men Peter (Hsin-Nan Hung) and Paul (Ling-Chi Fu). They chase Irene to an abandoned house where Peter beats and rapes her, but Irene dies from falling off the roof during her escape. An angry Chow vows revenge and when the police do nothing, he turns to the shaman for help.
The Shaw Brothers were once the kings of Hong Kong cinema in the 60s and 70s but by the 80s, their inability to modernise in the wake of the changes brought to martial arts movies by the likes of Bruce Lee, Sammo Hung, and Jackie Chan saw their crown long lost. In an attempt to get with the times, the studio would try anything to get eyes back on their product, including pandering to the lowest common denominator.
Seeding Of A Ghost should be a CAT III film, proving more extreme than most films with that label yet isn’t, by virtue of being made five years before this rating was introduced, although a case could be made for be the catalyst for it. Directed by Chuan Yang, this was one of the last major theatrical releases from the studio, which was already in the process of downsizing to focus on TV instead, making this quite the swan song to bow out with.
For the first half of the film, there are no supernatural happenings but plenty of soft-core smut and misogyny by way of assembling something akin to an actual plot. Straight away, the fact someone like Chow has such a sexy wife is more of a concern than the shaman and his dubious grave robbing antics. And I can say she is sexy because that is how she is presented, giving us all an eye full with a shower scene early in the film, (in full make up because cinema), ahead of a steamy sex session with the sleazy Fong.
Nothing against Irene but Fong already has a sexy wife at home (Ju-Wen Wei), and I can say that because…well you’ve guessed it. Anyway, Fong has it good with two hot women in his life but Irene wants full custody of his virility which Fong refuses to grant her. Of course, now left wandering the streets alone at night, she calls hubby to pick her up, since he is good for something. But he is too late, finding her ravaged beaten body at the abandoned house.
Despite the lack of paranormal horror, the rape scene is uncomfortable to watch, not for the sexual side of it but the sheer entitled violence of the men, mostly spoiled kid Peter whilst sidekick Paul looks on. In what seems to be a standard trope for Hong Kong cinema, the police are hopeless in pressing charges, letting the two thugs go scot-free when they are guilty as hell, whilst Fong is happy to have one less worry in the world.
Remembering the studios martial arts past, Chow seeks revenge with a couple of lame fights in which superhero like invincibility is a trait of all men involved, but ends when Fong cripples Chow with an iron bar to the leg. Tracking down the shaman, Chow is told he can exact revenge using Irene’s corpse as a conduit for his black magic. This leads to the horror portion of the film, which also takes in necrophilia, incest, a battle of spiritual magic, and a cheeky homage to Alien.
Whatever budget Yang had to work with is all on the screen and it is the scrappiness of it all which gives the film its grossness. It starts off small with noodles turning to worms, and a coconut turning into brains, but then gets real ugly. Learning Irene was pregnant, Chow is forced to feed the baby his blood so it can avenge his mother, which it does in the most unbelievable yet oddly genius way.
Having made us wait for so long, this film hovers at the “dud” level (gratuitous nudity debatable, natch) but the final act is so gloriously over the top, cheaply gruesome, and incomprehensibly dumb it is worth the wait. Fong, his wife, and a host of guest cameos all suffer as blood drenches, limbs are ripped off, and faces mutilated, in this gore fest climax of epic proportions.
Kudos goes to the cast for committing to the illusion of this finale, despite being attacked by a wire assisted what-ever-the-hell-it-was terror, and treating it like a real beast from the depths of hell. Its impecunious appearance makes it so unappealing and disturbing whilst its B-movie charm is enhanced from being in colour, boosted by this new HD transfer to allow us to revel in its sanguine glory.
I’m probably sticking my neck out here but whilst Seeding Of A Ghost is a desperately lurid and vulgar film of little moral merit, as a 90-minute slice of schlock horror nastiness it is peak insanity. Admittedly divisive despite its lowbrow kitsch appeal, this is definitely one for genre fans only without question.