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Encounters of the Spooky Kind (HK 1980)

Director & Writer : Sammo Hung
Producer : Raymond Chow
Cast : Sammo hung, Lam Ching-Ying, Cong Fatt, Chan Long

by Martin Cleary

Sammo Hung’s Encounters of the Spooky Kind (a.k.a Spooky Encounters) wasn’t
quite the first film to incorporate action, comedy and horror together in a Hong Kong production (that honour goes to Lau Kar-Leungs Spiritual Boxer which was made five years earlier), but Spooky Encounters was certainly the film that defined the genre and made way for many more films of its kind, including the Mr Vampire series.

Made in 1980, during a period of his career when Sammo could seemingly do no wrong, there’s hardly a wasted moment in the whole film. The pacing of Spooky Encounters is always swift and it never lets up. The clever plot manages to run from one set-piece to the next and what could have seemed simply like a series of sketches feels totally cohesive. With filmmaking skills like this Sammo proved that he was untouchable when on top form – as both actor and director. Giving a typically wide-eyed and innocent performance as Cheung, he proves that no-one does this type of role better. Of course its not all about the lead character and Spooky Encounters features a full cast that is equally impressive. Peter Chan is fantastic as the evil priest Chin Hoi, and Cheung Fat is also very good as the ‘good‘ Taoist priest who is determined to stop him. There’s a small role for Lam Ching Ying as the man charged with hunting down and arresting the simple Cheung. He only gets a few minutes screen time but Ching-Ying is very funny and has comic timing that equals that of the amazing Sammo.

Spooky Encounters has a perfect balance of comedy, action and horror – although the horror is very tame and isn’t likely to cause any sleepless nights. The film was a true ground-breaking mix of genre’s at the original time of its release, so it’s a testament to its high quality that over twenty-five years later it has still never been bettered. The film has more original ideas than in a dozen Hollywood films – the fight scenes throughout growing increasingly inventive. The idea to feature a fight where Cheung is attacked by a group of guards as well as his own hand (!) is pure inspiration. And its only one of many such scenes. Another highlight being Cheung calling upon – and being possessed by – the spirit of the Monkey King adds to what is one of the most unique and satisfying finales in any martial arts film.

Spooky Encounters is a classic of Hong Kong cinema and would surely be placed in any list of the top ten films of HK’s Golden Era. Its still as much fun today as it was on its original release, and it’s totally essential viewing for anyone interested in action and comedy cinema. On top of all of the breathtaking action and imaginative ideas, it also boasts the funniest final moment in a Hong Kong film. Ever.

Plot : 4/5
Acting : 4/5
Entertainment : 5/5
Overall : 5/5

Buy this movie at  YesAsia – Encounter of the Spooky Kind

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