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  Curse of Evil Family MisfortuneBuy this film here.
Year: 1982
Director: Kuei Chi-hung
Stars: Liang Chung Tai, Fei Ai, Lily Li, Alice Lau, Tsui Ling Yu, Frankie Chan, Lai Wang, Tin Leung, Yuen-Yan Lo, Chin Ho Wang, Siu-Kwan Lau, Jason Pai Piao, Szu-Ying Chien, Ping Ko, Chic Lau
Genre: Horror
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: One grisly night bandits murdered thirteen members of the Shih family then dumped their bodies in a well. Thirty years later lone survivor Old Madam Shih (Lai Wang) celebrates her fiftieth birthday, only to see her only son drop dead on the spot. It appears bad karma has placed the entire Shih clan under the 'Curse of the Bloody Frog.' Madam Shih subsequently raises her two granddaughters Yu-Lan (Liang Chung Tai) and Yu-Mei (Lily Li) under her roof living alongside her in-laws and their children: pig-tailed woman-child Ming-Ming (Chic Lau) and her illegitimate stepbrother Chin-Hua (Fei Ai), deemed automatically untrustworthy according to Chinese tradition. Even after the kids come of age the curse continues to plague the Shih household. First in the form of freak accidents. Then creepy-looking frog puppets invade the house, ripping people apart. Eventually a hideous serpentine demon bursts out of the well and rapes several women to death. As if all that were not enough, a mysterious murderer begins bumping off family members, one by one. This drives sweet, innocent young Yu-Lan to turn detective whereupon she uncovers another dark secret lurking in her grandmother's past.

Evidently the creative team behind Curse of Evil had seen Possession (1981) given this obscure Hong Kong horror produced by the Shaw Brothers twice recreates its central image with a woman found having slimy sex with a Lovecraftian tentacle-beast. Albeit in wildly different context from Andrzej Zulawski's infamous opus. Certain grim-and-grimy sequences wherein characters stumble into open graves to be eaten alive with their entrails torn apart by goofy frog puppets also evoke the nightmarish visions of Italian gore maestro Lucio Fulci. The film has a few decent jump-scares but for the most part proves a muddled morality tale with frankly irksome old-fashioned values and a creaky plot. Its scope, pace and imagination pale by comparison with the delirious highs Kuei Chi-hung scaled with The Boxer's Omen (1983). Possibly because he was a late replacement for original director Fung Wong.

Kuei Chi-hung's gritty, confrontational style and commitment to social satire distinguished his horror films although he dabbled in multiple genres at Shaw Brothers and would likely rather be remembered for his torn-from-the-headlines series of crime thrillers The Criminals (1976). With Curse of Evil Kuei treads an awkward line, alternately satirizing and reinforcing certain prejudices ingrained in traditional Chinese folklore. Hence, as tradition dictates, bastard offspring Chin-Hua justifies his stepfather's mistreatment by emerging a despicable rapist. Elsewhere a young woman who refuses to marry ends up raped to death by the demon (a lot of rape in this movie) while non-Chinese viewers may well wonder why the curse befalls the victims' descendants instead of their murderers' offspring. Kuei paints in broad strokes, clearly signposting characters as good or evil yet the finale inexplicably contradicts everything we are told about the origin of the curse with the most ridiculous Scooby-Doo surprise ending possible.

Along the way you get a lot of tiresome conservative platitudes, shrill soap opera confrontations and unintentionally laughable moments interspersed with sporadic demon rape, frog puppet violence and entrail-munching. Among the supporting cast pop star-turned-film composer-then-later-multi-hyphenate auteur Frankie Chan pops up as Yu-Lan's saintly tutor. Established as a potential love interest he instead suffers an especially grim fate, which is just as well given his atrocious acting. Martial arts superstar Jason Pai Piao also cameos as a police inspector though he leaves most of the detective work to Yu-Lan and, much like kung fu queen Lily Li, disappoints fans by not getting into a single fight. Boo! This was Kuei's penultimate horror film for Shaw Brothers. After aptly-named flop comedy Misfire (1984) he emigrated to the USA where he opened a pizza restaurant before dying of liver cancer in 1999 at age 61. Curse of Evil ends with a would-be cautionary message from the narrator that actually sounds a rather misanthropic note warning viewers true evil exists in the hearts of regular human beings: "Some of them might be your neighbors. Heh, heh, heh."

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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