Site Features
- Asian Film Awards
- Site Recommendations

- Reader Poll Results

- The Sponsor Page
- The FAQ Page
support this site by shopping at
Click to visit
Asian Blu-ray discs at
The First 7th Night
The First 7th Night     The First 7th Night

(left) Gordom Lam, and (right) Michelle Ye in Herman Yau's The First 7th Night.
AKA: First 7th Day
Chinese: 頭七
Year: 2008
Director: Herman Yau Lai-To
Cast: Gordon Lam Ka-Tung, Julian Cheung Chi-Lam, Michelle Ye, Eddie Cheung Siu-Fai, Fung Hak-On, Tony Ho Wah-Chiu, Chan Keung, Xiao Hei, Tsai Lex, Nahatai Lekbumrung
  The Skinny: It looks like a horror movie, but it really isn't one. Director Herman Yau takes elements of horror, crime film and supernatural drama and mixes them into an unassuming and engaging little genre film.
by Kozo:

At first glance, The First 7th Night looks like a horror movie, but the film surprises, becoming both less and more than one would expect. Director Herman Yau adds to his incredibly varied filmography with this languid suspense drama that succeeds thanks to good performances and some sly changes in tone. Gordon Lam stars as a taxi driver who goes by the nickname “Map King” because he knows how to get to any destination imaginable. One evening, he’s charged with guiding a cargo truck driver to the mysterious Moon and Sun Village – a place that only he knows how to get to – and he reluctantly agrees after being promised a sizable fee.

The client is Pony (Julian Cheung), an implacable, black-jacketed individual who’s cagey about his cargo but giving with his cash. They set off with a CB radio connecting the two so they can talk, but it’s soon clear that more is going on than just a trip to some remote village. Besides Pony’s tight-lipped attitude, Map King is more than a little jumpy. Something about the Moon and Sun Village gives him pause, and before long Pony is needling him on the subject. Map King finally offers up a ghost story set in the Moon and Sun Village’s distant past, about a widow named Fong (Michelle Ye), her chubby young son, and a group of armed bandits who turn up at her inn seeking refuge after a bloody robbery.

Unfortunately for them, they’ve shown up on the “First 7th Night” after the passing of Fong’s husband. Superstition states that the deceased will return that evening to settle affairs with their loved ones, and the event makes the bandits nervous. The most freaked out should be Keung (Eddie Cheung), who made some ill-advised advances towards Fong before he found out that her dead husband was expected – and that indiscretion could ultimately doom the four bandits. Herman Yau is able to get good performances from his actors, with the bandits (essayed also by Tony Ho, Fung Hak-On, and Xiao Hei) creating distinct characters through their casual dialogue and individual personalities. The details of Mapking’s story are rather light for a horror movie, but Yau milks the situation and his rural village location for the requisite tension.

However, this is only the first act in a three-act film, not including a prologue that introduces Map King and an epilogue that sheds light on yet another character. Act two takes Map King and Pony to a rest stop where they eat some food, drink some alcohol, and further discuss their lives in an oblique, borderline existential manner. Up until this point, the film still feels like a horror film, and even gets coy about it with harmless shock reveals and some over-aggressive sound cues that scream, “Oh no! A guy is at the window!” Loud sounds aside, the score from Brother Hung is atmospheric and remarkably varied in its moodiness. The score also gets sentimental when it needs to, and is a fine accompaniment to Herman Yau’s low-budget, low-tension film.

The First 7th Night mixes its genres effectively. Map King’s story hints at horror and Pony possesses a near-spectral countenance, but the horror portion of the story fades during the third act, which presents a different take on the story at the Moon and Sun Village. That flashback represents the first of the film’s multiple twists, but it’s an effectively presented one, with the actors playing the same characters in a remarkably different fashion. Yau’s direction kicks it up a notch here, with the film going from minor horror to minor crime thriller, and that’s not the end of the twists that Yau delivers. Some details prove predictable but others don’t, and the film wraps up in a satisfying, if oddly upbeat manner that brings its details full circle. A note for extreme movie fans: the film possesses a Category III rating, but the content barely qualifies for such. Gong Tau this is not.

The final reveal may appear a bit silly to some audiences. What Yau reveals at the close of his Twilight Zone-like tale is perhaps a bit out there, but he sells it with such low-key sentimentality that it manages to affect, if not totally convince. Ultimately, The First 7th Night is a welcome update of the numerous Troublesome Night movies (of which Yau helmed six), taking a cheap genre and making it engaging in an unpretentious and unassuming manner. Unfortunately, the film is too minor to get much press ink, and its limited theatrical play in Hong Kong (piecemeal screenings at less than ten locations) will likely doom it to forgotten status. That’s a shame because The First 7th Night and Herman Yau deserve more than that. (Kozo 2009)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Modern Audio
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
Find this at

image credits: Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen