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  Hex versus Witchcraft gambling git marries gagging for it ghost
Year: 1980
Director: Kuei Chi-hung
Stars: Yi Lei, Booi Yue Fa, Leung Jan Lei, Yeung Chi Hing, Lam Fai Wong, To Siu Ming, Shirley Yu, Wang Lai, Chan Shen, Cheung Chok Chow
Genre: Horror, Comedy, SexBuy from Amazon
Rating:  2 (from 1 vote)
Review: Shaw Brothers’ resident sleaze and horror specialist, Kuei Chi-hung scored a hit with Hex (1980), a supernatural twist on Les Diaboliques (1955). The film spawned two follow-ups, the third being superior horror-romance, Hex After Hex (1982), while this middle instalment combines horror, softcore sex and comedy to generally dismal results. Your first clue should be the presence of comedian Yi Lei, whose Shaw Brothers vehicles from Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star (1983) to My Darling Genie (1984) rank among the most inane movies churned out by the studio.

Yi Lei plays Cai Tou, a compulsive gambler whose catastrophic bad luck finds him losing everything from poker to mah-jongg. Now in serious debt, he agrees to get his wife (Leung Jan Lei) drunk, so she will sleep with triad boss Brother Nine (Chan Shen, who starred in the Hammer/Shaw co-production, Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974)). After this odious plan goes horribly wrong, Tou is ordered to kill himself within twenty-four hours, or face a more prolonged and painful death at triad hands. Several botched suicide attempts later, Tou encounters a strange old man (Yeung Chi Hing) with a curious proposal: if Tou will marry the ghost of his dead daughter, Liu Ah-cui (gang-raped and murdered by gangsters, thus doomed to roam the spirit world for eternity), he will receive one million dollars plus a huge cash bonus later on. Thinking the old man is crazy, Tou accepts but is horrified to discover Ah-cui is very real, and plotting to use her supernatural powers to make him abide by his marriage vows.

Why do so many Yi Lei comedies involve suicide, rape and incurable misogynists? If anything in the above synopsis strikes readers as actually being funny, the listless, joyless tone will soon convince them otherwise. Fifteen minutes of the main protagonist repeatedly failing to do himself in, does not make for cheery viewing. Hong Kong comedies are notorious for featuring deliberately obnoxious leads, but the pathetic, venal antics of Cai Tou set a new low. There is not a single likeable or compelling character in the movie, while Kuei Chi-hung shows little flair for comedy amidst plenty of crass, repetitive slapstick.

Sexploitation comes into play with the introduction of Cai Tou’s neighbour, an air hostess (Booi Yue Fa) who arouses his lust and whom Ah-cui possesses to help gratify his needs. This somehow involves the naked woman rubbing against a velvet chair whilst humming excerpts from Bizet’s Carmen, which might sound compelling but grinds on tediously and gets embarrassing pretty fast. The horror elements are pretty weak, save for some eerie lighting and fog, although things improve briefly with an inventive climax where Cai Tou and his ghostly wife face off against a supernaturally-gifted, topless, tattooed gambler (sexploitation star Shirley Yu). Even then it’s too late to redeem this dire comedy.
Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


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