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  Evil Cat Meow, Meow, you're dead
Year: 1987
Director: Dennis Yu
Stars: Lau Kar-Leung, Joann Tang Lai-Yin, Mark Cheng, Wong Jing, Chui Suk-Woon, Stuart Ong, Poon Jan-Wai, Teresa Ha Ping, Yiu Fung-Si, So Hon-Sang, Thomas Sin Ho-Ying, Chan Yuet-Yue
Genre: Horror, Martial Arts, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: For eight generations the Cheung family have fought to protect Hong Kong from the feline demon known as Evil Cat. So when a construction crew inadvertently unleash the entity from its ancient tomb, sagely sorcerer Master Cheung (Lau Kar-Leung) knows the killer kitty is loose again. Sure enough, Evil Cat splatters a septet of security guards before possessing the body of business tycoon Mr. Fan (Stuart Ong). Inept Police Inspector Handsome Wu (Wong Jing) is on the case but more interested in romancing gutsy reporter Siu-Chuen (Joann Tang Lai-Yin) who happens to be Cheung's daughter. En route to the crime scene Cheung runs into Fan's young driver, Ah Long (Mark Cheng), onto whom he passes a magic medallion. Which comes in handy when Ah Long's blood-dribbling, demon-possessed boss attacks him in a frenzy of cat style kung fu. After a narrow escape, Ah Long seeks out Cheung and offers to become his disciple so they can send Evil Cat back to hell.

That there is one Hong Kong-made killer cat kung fu horror movie is remarkable enough but in fact Evil Cat is part of a mini sub-genre. Equally off-kilter horror films like The Cat (1992) and Devil Cat (1980) represent a more eccentric and, let's face it, lowbrow offshoot of old Asian folktales dealt with more seriously in Japanese films, notably Kaneto Shindo's artful Kuroneko (1968). By comparison Evil Cat has something of a mongrel pedigree, on the one hand scripted by notorious trash film mogul Wong Jing (who gives himself a juicy supporting role) yet photographed by the widely respected D.P. Arthur Wong and featuring as its male lead Lau Kar-Leung, one of the most celebrated martial arts filmmakers in Hong Kong. It was also the last film directed by Dennis Yu, a filmmaker active in many genres but who displayed a genuine aptitude for horror as evidenced by The Beasts (1980) (his variation on Last House on the Left (1972)) and supernatural yarn The Imp (1984).

Dennis Yu's inventive angles and energetic editing coupled with Arthur Wong's skillful lighting tricks lend an ominous atmosphere to an otherwise silly premise. Wong Jing's script is a familiar hodgepodge of sex, schlock horror clich├ęs, slapstick tomfoolery and themes shamelessly lifted from other better known HK horror films, notably Mr. Vampire (1985), but also anticipates the fifth film in the series Magic Cop (1990). As with many of these films the central theme revolves around the tension between modern Hong Kong and traditional values. Played with stoic authority by a well-cast Lau Kar-Leung, Master Cheung is the living embodiment of inflexible Taoist morality but hip young thing Siu-Chuen has no time for daddy's mumbo-jumbo. Given the script mentions Cheung just got out of a sanitarium and is recovering from a brain tumour one can't fault her skepticism. At least Siu-Chuen is nice enough to play along with her father's "fantasies" (at one point she offers to pay the cash-strapped Ah Long to keep him out of trouble, though he decently refuses her money) but the clueless cops keep arresting Cheung before he can kill Evil Cat.

For all its sporadic stylishly sinister visuals the film's frequent lapses into silliness prove increasingly hard to bear. One hysterical scene has Ah Long slapping his mother (Teresa Ha Ping) silly as a way of warning her Fan is evil. To which she responds with her own barrage of slaps. It is meant to be suspenseful but proves plain ridiculous. With Evil Cat able to swap human hosts at will, the film avoids the pitfalls of including an actual cat puppet although the cat makeup showcased during the lively climax is fairly accomplished. There is a memorable, if ultimately pointless scene where the cat-possessed Tina (Chui Sook-Woon) seduces a Cantopop star (Poo Jan-Wai), passing on the cat curse via a deadly shag before biting off his tongue. Equally worth noting is an extended homage to The Terminator (1984) (something interestingly also included in The Cat) wherein Tina massacres an entire police station ripping heads off and punching straight through chests. After a so-so two thirds the last twenty minutes are surprisingly good with some gut-wrenching nihilistic plot twists, a shock death homage to The Fury (1978) and a painful sequence with Wong Jing struggling to dislodge a mystical arrow from his shoulder. For a brief moment we end up watching a completely different, far better movie.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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