THE SEVENTH CURSE (1986)

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Directed by:
Written by: ,
Starring: , , ,

Available Now from 88 Films

Blood curses, demonic possession, investigative journalism… yes it’s another example of bonkers cinema from The Cat and The Story of Ricky director Ngai Choi Lam. There’s going to be action, violence and sleaze in this wild ride into the world of Hong Kong Category-III cinema, but in the grand scheme of things it’s generally pretty mild. Which is to say there’s a lot more low budget monster and gore effects than there are nude scenes and things are never taken too far. It’s less Untold Story and more Temple of Doom if you get where I’m coming from. More adventure story than straight up horror, but still a heady mixture of crazy sequences and outrageous spectacle. In a way it’s a film that has it all, depending on what you’re looking for of course. So hold onto your hats (and your stomachs) as we delve into the world of occult mystery and ancient evil.

Maggie Cheung and Siu-Ho Chin

To lend this all a kind of pulpy atmosphere the story begins with occult expert Wisely (Chow Yun-Fat) and medical researcher Dr. Yuan (Siu-Ho Chin) at a black tie dinner party. It’s here that their exploits are being told by novelist Ni Kuang (as himself) to a score of beautiful women. It’s a surreal moment since the two leads are characters in a plethora of books by the author, but it sets the stage for things to come. This will be a larger than life tale; tongue planted firmly in cheek. Later their are also pool parties and swimsuits just in case you didn’t get the message, along with a playboy (Wong Jing, the first of several familiar faces in a string of cameos) declaring they’re writing about ‘astrology’ and ‘sexology,’ because of course they are. However this kind of narrative, hopping from the present and into flashbacks, does occasionally present a bit of a pacing problem.

Once the story begins properly we’re introduced to plucky, and often irritating, reporter Tsui Hung (Maggie Cheung) during a hostage crises. That’s right, there’s no time to worry about the occult just yet. Instead there’s a police raid on a building being held by armed terrorists and Tsui wants the big scoop. It’s a very strange sequence in which Yuan is taking it all seriously and Tsui beats a police officer with a brick to gain entry to the location. But in a way this is another example of the tone being set up. The wire work is over the top and the action is in no way realistic. The same can be said of the scene in which our other lead, Black Dragon, (Dick Wei in a non-bad guy role for once) makes his appearance. Which is during an attack scene in Yuan’s apartment where both his womanising nature the titular ‘seventh curse’ is introduced. Why choose violence, action or sex when it all can happen in the space of a few minutes?

Jumping back in time it’s shown that Yuan was cursed during a jungle expedition. The party was looking for new medicines but instead found the ‘worm tribe,’ a typical evil cult who wear black and red. As they apparently sacrifice their own people to gain some kind of vague power, Yuan sees a ritual involving a magic dagger. Those chosen by the dagger are sent to a tomb in which the living (and mutating) skeleton of a tribal elder resides. Along with a lot of other special effects madness there’s also some kind of monster foetus under the cult leaders cloak, so if you’re not on board at this stage then it’s probably not going to be your cup of tea. Various skin melting shenanigans ensue and Yuan falls victim to the curse. Luckily for him the seven stages will take a year to become fatal, thanks to infrequently clothed priestess Bachu (Chui Sau-lai) giving him some of her own, apparently magic, blood.

Chow Yun-Fat

Here things get a bit muddled as Black Dragon recruits Yuan (after breaking into his house and attacking him) to save Bachu from the cult, who have starting kidnapping local children. What was he doing about the curse until now and why is it activated at this stage? What was the cult doing for the last twelve months? Do they really need to show children being squashed like grapes to sate the powers of evil? Don’t even worry about it at this stage; it’s easier just go with the flow as the gang heads to back to the jungle. Wisely isn’t really in the film too much, which is a shame for Chow Yun-Fat fanatics, though he does at least show up to occasionally smoke a pipe or kill a monster as and when the story demands it. In this way he’s bit like the Gandalf of the adventure, only with more bazooka fire power.

In terms of straight forward action there are plenty of highlights to choose from, even if some sequences are a little brief. After some great fire stunts early on things quiet down until a quick battle with tribal thugs in Thailand. Yuan and friends are also involved in some pretty crazy vehicle crashes and a lot of brutal death traps. There’s also what can only be described as a fight against monks on top of a booby-trapped-Buddha. It all goes a bit Boxer’s Omen in the third act as the heroes race to find a real blood curse cure, leading to a finale with creatures which seem to have been inspired by a certain alien design. Tsui is still pretty grating as things go along but Maggie Cheung at least has charisma to spare. If there’s one missed opportunity it’s got to be choosing to have her become just another curse victim instead of transforming from spoilt brat to action hero.

Still, at the end of the day it’s a colourful, slimy, and often gruesome tale. One that puts the sense of adventure before any sense of logic. Maybe the tuxedo wearing narrator has just been partying too much as things progress. With so many elements taken from other movies it would be easy to call this a bit of a mess. Arbitrary rules of magic artefacts and witchcraft aside, the structure of the film itself isn’t the most coherent. The cameos are self indulgent (genre fans should make sure to watch the longest cut) and there are a few gory moments that would make Mola Ram blush. Yet at the same time there’s a sort of silliness to everything in a story that has cartoon style blood and cheap puppets posing as undead monstrosities. But that’s all part of its oddball appeal, and despite a few minor caveats it’s always an entertaining journey into the unknown.

Rating: ★★★★★★★☆☆☆

SPECIAL FEATURES

  • 2K transfers from the Original Negatives
  • High Definition Blu-ray ™ (1080p) Presentation in 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio
  • Original LPCM 2.0 Soundtrack
  • Extended Hong Kong Version (Cantonese Mono with English Subtitles)

  • Audio Commentary by Asian Cinema Expert Frank Djeng and another man
  • Supplemental Commentary by Asian Cinema Expert Frank Djeng
  • Export Cut (English Mono Dub)
  • Export Cut with Audio Commentary but Action Experts Mike Leeder and Arne Venema
  • 2K transfer from the only known 35mm Film Elements
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) Presentation in 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio
  • Original DTS-HD MA 2.0 SoundtrackInterview with Actor Chin Sui-Ho (2 Hours)
  • In Support of The Seventh Curse – Patricia Wong on The Seventh Curse
  • Hong Kong Cantonese Trailer
  • English Export Trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original poster artwork
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About Mocata 149 Articles
A sucker for classic epics, 80s science fiction and fantasy kitsch, horror, action, animation, stop motion, world cinema, martial arts and all kinds of assorted stuff and nonsense. If you enjoy a bullet ballet, a good eye ball gag or a story about time travelling robots maybe we can be friends after all.

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