Possessed (1983)
By: Mr Intolerance on April 28, 2009  | 
DVD
Fortune Star (Hong Kong). All Regions, NTSC. 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced). Cantonese DD 2.0, Mandarin DD 2.0. English, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese Subtitles. 86 minutes
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: David Lai
Starring: Siu-Ming Lau, Gary Siu, Irene Wan, Yut Fei Wong
Screenplay: John Au
Country: Hong Kong
External Links
IMDB Rotten
I had no real idea of what to expect from this Category III HK ghost/revenge flick besides what I'd read on the back cover, which was pretty minimal. That said, I thought I'd give it a spin as the pictures of the special effects looked suitably 80s-gooey, and besides the recommendation of the buddy of mine who lent it to me I'd heard nothing about it, and coming almost totally clean into a movie is pretty rare these days. Let's see what we get.

From the get go it's got HK film written all over it – two cops, Hsiao (suave and cool) and Ming (drunken bumbling comic relief) are our heroes; I've never understood this idea in violent HK flicks – things cannot apparently be played straight; we need to have slapstick at all times (think numerous Jackie Chan films, even Cat III scorchers like The Untold Story or Ebola Syndrome). This works against creating an atmosphere of any kind (only the presence of Anthony Wong saved the previous two films from being complete car-wrecks), or can only lead to a disjointed, positively patchwork film at best. So, while Ming vomited on a pick-pocket like an alcoholic lawn-sprinkler, I sighed and waited for the nastiness to ensue.

While Ming's bumbling antics continue – apparently urination is comedy gold – Hsiao is having a casual smoke when he hears a disturbance; some nutter is chasing a woman around the roof of a nearby house with a cleaver. Hsiao subdues the fella, but it becomes rapidly apparent that he's not some common or garden variety psycho. Something weird is happening in HK city, that's for sure – people don't otherwise need to be shot six times at point blank range while their head's elongating like it's made of funny foam in order to be made to sit down. Ming's drunkenness on duty ensures that part of the story isn't in the official report – he and Hsiao simply lie about it to their boss.

The idea of corruption and an ineffective system of authority is introduced reasonably early in this film, and despite its initially comedic look, becomes a whole lot more serious, especially for our Odd Couple protagonists. Hsiao is finding this out – after a date with a nice Korean girl, which for some reason he brings drunken Ming along to (because you always take a drunken fuckwit on a date with you as a third wheel – chicks dig that kind of thing), he goes home to the house he shares with his ugly, ugly sister, and the weirdness begins again, Poltergeist style – shit moving around on it's own and then exploding for no readily apparent reason. Oddly enough, instead of tipping the fuck right out the door, Hsiao's only reaction is to go to the local temple the next day and make a sacrifice.

Hsiao's pager is playing up – or so he thinks – and the following day he's mysteriously called to an attempted suicide, even though both he and Ming think that it may not be real, and some more weird shit happened when Hsiao answered the call. Still, duty calls. And it turns out that there is a potential jumper, but things are not what they seem - the jumper doesn't look human and we then get the first grisly splatter scene of the film, with the kind of fire-engine red blood you expect from an Italian zombie flick. The whole scene leaves you thinking, like Scotty and Ash's song in Evil Dead: The Musical says, "What The Fuck Was That?!" Comedy stylings of the film aside – the jumper was trying to target Hsiao, and from ten floors up, that's a pretty unfriendly thing to do.

Mind you, so's trying to cut somebody's tackle off, which is what Hsiao tries to rather uncharacteristically do to some poor schmoe who's trying to schtup his ugly sister. After this amateur castration is aborted, mainly due to the victim understandably fleeing, Hsiao goes to the bathroom to cool down, and in yet another Poltergeist moment, staring at himself in the vanity mirror, peels his own face off. Or at least thinks that's what he's doing. Now me, if I started imagining that kind of thing, I'd be off to the local head-shrinker to get a check-up from the neck-up. But not our man Hsiao – he gets his Korean cutie Miss Sue over for a bit of rumpy-pumpy; that's the spirit – you go, my son! Miss Sue has very nice boobies, by the way.

Ming and Hsiao start trying to put together the puzzle of the suicide jumper, and find out that it links to the shooting at the start of the film. For at least a moment, Possessed takes on a serious turn, as the boys start to realise that maybe there's something bigger here to deal with. And it's started to affect those that the boys are involved with – some pesky ghost has designs on Miss Sue and invades her home, throwing her about like a rag doll, much like the poltergeist does in...umm...Poltergeist to JoBeth Williams, who also has nice boobies, by the way. Finally though, we get a serious horror tone established. The first third of this film meanders badly, falling back on the HK genre traits of gratuitous slapstick comedy and silliness, but when the nastiness comes to the fore, it gets much better, very quickly.

Hmm...a flickering static TV screen, things flying all around the room, a door that opens onto a halogen-bright void – I think I might have seen these things before...in Poltergeist. Which is, might I tell you, a far superior film. Mind you, if you're going to rip something off, you might as well rip it off from the best, I guess. Hsiao's ugly sister and her boyfriend are not having a very happy howdy-doody day, given that while they're trying to have a quiet bit of rooting, the flat seems to have gone berserk and has become positively lethal.

Hsiao and Ming start piecing together the puzzle – it's all connected to a Triad murder case that Hsiao's father worked on many years before; one fella died and the rest (our previous deaths) were sentenced to time inside. Could this be revenge? Yeah, I think it could, albeit from beyond the grave. Hsiao and Ming go to visit the blind seer Mr Chen, who does not exactly fill them full of warm fuzzies – in fact he pretty much tells them that they're both going to die. This does not inspire confidence. The secret lies with Hsiao's father, and that's who they traipse off to see, and use the power of a Taoist to get to the bottom of things – this does not inspire confidence, as things have gotten as bad as they could possibly get. The sins of the fathers are indeed being visited upon the sons, as that Bible tract would have us believe, with all its' unfairness and lack of mercy that the x-tians hypocritically believe in. Plus there's this lesson: don't go driving when you're cursed.

Hsiao goes off to stop this thing for once and for all, wearing the crappest windcheater known to mankind – is that thing naughahyde? Jee-zus... And the Poltergeist references keep on coming thick and fast with the diminutive witch who's here to solve all of Hsiao's problems. Ideally. The exorcism seems to be going well, until one little glitch, and guess where the subtitles disappeared? I watched the final act of the film, but I'll be fucked if I could give you any detail of it, other than the solely visual, as the arse-ing thing gave up the ghost (no pun intended) on the subtitles, no matter what I did. Annoyed... There appeared to be all kinds of exciting stuff happening, including exploding cars and dying monks, but I can't tell you what it all meant, as I had the same problem with the subtitles on the Mandarin audio track as I did on the Cantonese.

What a great piece of work Fortune Star gave me – a film that had bad subtitling, until it had none! Ultimately, I have no idea what to tell you about this film, except don't buy cheap-o films from Chinatown – you will get burnt. All I can tell you is that there's a moronic twist in the tail that'll have you groan. That much was understandable without functioning subtitles.

The subtitling on this version of Possessed is truly awful. It's not so much that it's literal rather than idiomatic English (I mean hey – give me an English film and a Cantonese dictionary and see how well I'd do at the same task – badly, I guarantee), it just simply at parts makes no sense at all, and it really does jar you out of the film, and makes you take it even less seriously than the so-called comedic moments would have you take it. Although I must say, I got an ironic laugh out of the scene when Hsiao's sister and her boyfriend are playing Pac-Man and the ghosts keep killing the hero – while it doesn't exactly foreshadow the end of the film, it certainly addresses the threat of the ghosts to the living (if anything, it reminded me more of Kairo in a literal sense). Regardless, it was a nice cinematic touch.
Video
The picture is adequate without being anything special – kind of like watching a film on TV, and not of the Hi-Def quality. Clear, but muted in terms of colour, is what I'm saying. Some of the night-time interiors are so dark that it's nearly impossible to see what's going on.
Audio
Again, this is nothing special, and basically a bit muffled at times. I normally expect better from legit DVD releases. Yeah, it's a 2.0 Dolby Digital track, but it's not a good one – I watched it in Cantonese, maybe the Mandarin track was better? I doubt it, though. (NB: it wasn't any better – after a subtitle fail on the Cantonese track I switched over – it was equally as bad).
Extra Features
Well, there's a photo gallery, and a trailer for Possessed.That's it kids, a rather poor package of extras, truth be told.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
As an 86 minute time-waster, Possession is okay, maybe. If you're looking for serious entertainment, you may wish to look elsewhere, as the first thirty minutes are pretty dreadful, and even the final showdown lacks any kind of real oomph. Yeah, so maybe it's a Cat III film, but so's Basic Instinct, and that wasn't any good either. Maybe if the comedy had been left out, this film may well have been better, but as it stands, it's pretty mundane.

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