Octoblur: If the quality doesn't scare you the quantity will.
While Shaw Brothers Studios was cranking out bizarre horror exploitation like Black Magic and The Boxer's Omen as an alternative to their prolific kung fu output, Golden Harvest star Sammo Kam-Bo Hung combined that same strange evil magic with his customary brand of kung fu comedy during his most successful streak of the 1980s. His first movie under his newly formed Bo Ho production company, Encounters of the Spooky Kind (a.k.a. Spooky Encounters), was his debut foray into horror-comedy, and features several fun action slapstick sequences before ending on a sourly misogynistic note.
Hung both directs and stars as a sad-sack chauffeur whose wife (Leung Suet-mei) is cuckolding him with a prominent politician (Huang Ha). the politician hires a necromancer (Chan Lung) to get Hung out of the way for good, but the necromancer's warlock partner (Chung Fat) is opposed to this craven scheme. There is quite a bit of dumb plot in Encounters of the Spooky Kind, but it allows Hung to engage in a number of fun sequences that highlight his skill at both physical comedy and kung fu — he fights animated corpses and gets possessed by the spirit of the monkey god — before culminating in a surprisingly bitter and angry final moment that sours it all a little.
I've previously enjoyed Hung with Jackie Chan in Project A, Wheels on Meals and Dragons Forever — Chan's best movie, which Hung also co-directed — but as a solo star he lacks the charm that buoys Chan's movies. Hung is self-effacing, but not really in a lovable way, so there is an element of joy missing even during the best and most exciting parts of Encounters of the Spooky Kind, and the ending just comes off as unnecessarily hateful, even if she was a pretty bad wife. However, fans of neat practical make-up effects will enjoy the creepy designs of Hung's opponents, and the climactic witch-fight is high quality Hong Kong horror for those who maybe want something a little less weird than what Shaw Brothers were cranking out.
Stay tuned here and on twitter @Popgap to see what I choose to inflict upon myself this Octoblur!