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Spooky Encounters
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Spooky Encounters

Chung Fat and Sammo Hung have some Spooky Encounters.

AKA: Encounters of the Spooky Kind  
Chinese: 鬼打鬼  
Year: 1980  
Director: Sammo Hung Kam-Bo

Raymond Chow

Writer: Sammo Hung Kam-Bo, Huang Ying
Action: Sammo Hung Kam-Bo, Sammo Hung Stuntmen’s Association, Lam Ching-Ying, Yuen Biao, Billy Chan Wui-Ngai
Cast: Sammo Hung Kam-Bo, Chung Fat, Peter Chan Lung, Wu Ma, Lam Ching-Ying, To Siu-Ming, Huang Ha, Tai Bo, Leung Suet-Mei, Cheung Ging-Boh
The Skinny: Sammo Hung fights vampires, demons, Taoist priests and his own arm in this genre classic. Despite outdated production values and content that’s politically incorrect by modern standards, Spooky Encounters still possesses laughs and surprises. A prime example of a unique Hong Kong Cinema genre.
by Kozo:

The horror-comedy-martial arts film is a popular Hong Kong Cinema genre, and few films represent it better than director-writer-star Sammo Hung’s Spooky Encounters (a.k.a. Encounters of the Spooky Kind). This 1980 genre mix-up is the precursor to the legitimately classic Mr. Vampire (1985), its arguably classic sequels and a host of films with descriptive titles like The Dead and the Deadly (1983), Vampire vs. Vampire (1990) and Magic Cop (1990).

Besides combining horror, comedy and kung-fu, Spooky Encounters and its successors appropriated Chinese folklore and religion, making clever use of Buddhist rituals and superstitions to entertain the target Chinese audience. International audiences could get in on the fun too; despite featuring potentially impenetrable cultural references and borderline laughable baddies – the go-to undead are hopping Chinese vampires known as geung si – the combo of marital arts and spooky horror proved an exotic and unique mix. You won’t find movies like these anywhere else.

Spooky Encounters takes a while to get started, running though a number of events before introducing its main story. Bold Cheung (Sammo Hung) is a brave but dim-witted rube who constantly gets into trouble. Cheung is being cuckolded by his wife (Leung Suet-Mei) and boss, Master Tam (Huang Ha), who hatches an assassination plot against Cheung to prevent his adultery from being discovered. Tam hires a proxy to engage Cheung in scary wagers, like spending a night in an old shed with a corpse, while simultaneously asking mercenary Taoist priest Chin Hoi (Peter Chan Lung) to animate the corpse using black magic. Bold Cheung should be doomed, but he receives expert help from Tsui (Chung Fat), another Taoist priest who objects to Chin Hoi’s wicked use of their arts. With Tsui’s counselling, Cheung escapes death and discovers the identity of his enemy, but not before he’s beaten, cursed, possessed and much more.

Taken as a whole, Spooky Encounters is episodic and lacks a rising tension, but provides wildly entertaining set pieces at regular intervals. Effects are decidedly low-tech but the spooky lighting and art direction is effective, and each sequence is punctuated by impressive comic timing and physical feats by the large and amazingly agile Sammo Hung. Cheung’s first encounter with a geung si is both scary and funny, with perfectly-timed choreography that delivers equal parts action and laughs.

In another sequence, Chin Hoi possesses Cheung’s arm, which leads to Sammo Hung fighting off attackers and his own arm simultaneously. In the final face off with Chin Hoi, the action and comedy reach a fever pitch, as Cheung channels the Monkey God through his body, resulting in Sammo Hung squealing like a monkey while practicing monkey-fu and hanging from bamboo scaffolding. If anything, Spooky Encounters should be well regarded for Hung’s astounding physical performance, which is as skilful and compelling as any traditional acting.

Spooky Encounters does possess some potentially disturbing elements. A chicken is killed live on camera for a Taoist ritual and a female antagonist receives an excessive beating that’s supposed to be humorous but comes off as mean-spirited. These moments may leave a bad taste for modern audiences but really shouldn’t diminish what the film accomplishes. While political correctness and film technology may change or improve, the creativity and spectacle of Sammo Hung’s action direction and physical performance remain timeless. (Kozo, 6/2015)


• Essay was originally published in April 2015 in the Far East Film Festival catalog for the 17th Udine Far East Film Festival. Reprinted with permission.

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Joy Sales (HK)
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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