Erotic Ghost Story
- Three women who’re Taoist devotees are tricked by the Wu-Tung demon god into following their sexual desires.
- Three vixens have meditated for 1,000 years to able to shed their animal natures and become human. For the final month of their rigors, they have moved near a village where women pray to a god of fertility. One sister visits the god’s temple and thinks lustful thoughts. As she leaves, a priest confronts her, warning of dire consequences and of demons that will try to stop the vixens’ transformation.
- Three vixens have meditated for 1,000 years to able to shed their animal natures and become human. For the final month of their rigors, they have moved near a village where women pray to a god of fertility. One sister visits the god’s temple and thinks lustful thoughts. As she leaves, a priest confronts her, warning of dire consequences and of demons that will try to stop the vixens’ transformation. Soon, the youngest sister saves a poor scholar from bandits and becomes enamored of him. Each sister visits him, and before long, the youth has made love to all three. After they invite him to stay with them, the playfulness takes a scary turn. Where can they turn for help?
Fei Fei, So So and Fa Fa are spirits who’ve been living in fox form for a thousand years, but have now been allowed to shed their animal natures and live as human beings in a village where they are supposed to help mankind if possible and avoid sexual relations with humans. Naughty So So has lustful thoughts about the local fertility god Wu Tung whilst in the village temple. As she leaves, a priest warns her of dire consequences, in particular a demon that will try to make the fairies go back to living as foxes. Soon after, Fa Fa rescues a scholar named Wu Ming and is immediately attracted to him. Then her two sisters in turn also meet him and guess what happens? Wu Ming has avoided contact with women due to his vows but he’s still a man. However, remember; these spirits shouldn’t really be messing around with humans in such a fashion anyway….
So after releasing a bucket load of Hong Kong movies in mostly excellent versions on Blu-ray, 88 Films decided to venture into the world of Category 3; well, they actually did it a few months ago and Erotic Ghost Story‘s first print run was sold out very quickly, with me being too slow to nab a copy. The fact that that was so popular hopefully means that 88 Films have more Category 3 films on the horizon. What is Category 3 you may ask, if you’re not that well versed in Hong Kong cinema? It’s basically the equivalent of our ’18’ rating, applying to strong violence and horror but becoming most associated with soft porn, the first half of the ’90s seeing a boom in movies that somebody like Jackie Chan wouldn’t dream of being in. Back in the day, when fans of Hong Kong cinema often had to put up with videos of dubious legality and subtitles, I did purchase Sex And Zen, which turned out to be a genuinely good and genuinely sexy movie, though I never saw the sequels. It starred Amy Yip, perhaps the queen of Category 3 films despite never actually appearing naked or even topless, and who also stars in this one alongside fellow lovelies Hitomo Kudo [a star of one of the dodgiest of Asian subgenres, the Japanese rape movie] and So Man. Given its title and the fact that A Chinese Ghost Story was imitated so much, one could be forgiven that this is basically a variant on the 1986 movie with more sex. It’s set in the same kind of fantasy world but turns the oft-used device of an innocent, clumsy scholars sleeping with a sexy female ghost or spirit who may or may not have good intentions. For once a human isn’t the main protagonist; the tale is instead told mostly from the point of view of its three spirits, then goes on to become a Hong Kong variant on The Witches Of Eastwick.
But is it any good you ask? Well, statements such as the plot not being developed as well as it could have been and instead spending too much time on sex scenes aren’t really appropriate, because this is a soft porn movie first and a supernatural fantasy second, and doesn’t and shouldn’t attempt to hide or be ashamed of the fact; it is what it is. It was also made on an extremely low budget so, while there are special effects moments, there aren’t too many of them and some don’t look too good. Director Ng Choi Lam [probably best known for the prison gore fest Story Of Ricky but I’d say that The Seventh Curse and The Peacock King are far better ways to sample his often crazy, manic work] also did the cinematography and seems to have spent some effort in creating a visually appealing piece. The premise does have a certain freshness to it at least initially, and most of the brief action and horror moments are handled with enough verve as to make one wish that there were more of them, with some especially smooth wirework and rather good “of their time” opticals. The sex scenes aren’t particularly erotic except for one I will mention in a bit despite a surprising amount of close-ups especially of breasts, but that’s the thing; while most straight guys probably think that breasts are beautiful and sexy things, they become neither when filmed up close jigging up and down; the effect is just humorous. One wonders if these scenes could have done with being a bit less “vanilla” seeing as Lam doesn’t seem particularly good at filming sex, but then again one also wonders if he’s having a bit of a laugh in what is a sometimes obviously humorous piece anyway, not to mention one which, if I’m interpreting its story correctly, seems to actually warn against submitting to your carnal desires.
The first moment of a green-clad lady at one with nature in the forest is rather delightful. This is Fei Fei, who visits one of those ubiquitous outdoor Chinese cafes accompanied only by her umbrella which comes in handy when accosted by two men who become fixated on her breasts whose nipples are very visible in her outfit. They flee to return with a gang who instead come across Fa Fa who’s clad in pink. She lets them line up so they think they’re all going to have sex with her, then calls her four sisters who suddenly appear. The men grope, mount and roll around with them but they change into decomposing bodies [though Fa Fa just becomes an old lady for some reason] in a scene which is a really rather good combination of almost slapstick comedy and horror; I don’t think Ngai was going for full-on terror here, which is maybe just as well seeing as those decomposed bodies don’t look too great even with green slime [where does that come from?] on their faces. Meanwhile big sister So So, dressed in white, is in the village and approaching the temple of the god Wu Tang. “Any woman unable to conceive will be expecting as soon as they offer up a single prayer” she’s told. She enters the place and walks around the three-headed statue of the god – and is turned on. Now I can’t see myself being turned on by a statue of the thought of a god, and I doubt that you could either, but who knows what spirits usually go for? We probably shouldn’t judge, but a Taoist priest named Yuen Kee, who quite deliberately looks like Lam Ching-Yin in the Mr Vampire films, does so anyway. He says that humans can think lustfully in such a manner, but not thousand year old fox spirits who are trying to attain the “ultimate Tao of the Golden Elixir”. Yet such thoughts continue, with Fa Fa dreaming of meeting a gentle man picking flowers in a meadow and Fei Fei imagining she’s in a wood where a Chinese equivalent of a knight in shining armour is galloping around.
So So enjoys watching Fei Fei in their outdoor pool so much that she joins her for a bit of lesbian incest which, with its well chosen shots and effective editing, is the most sensual scene in the film; their breasts rubbing against each other is especially nice. All the trysts that follow contain strange choices for emphasis, semi-comic touches that lessen the vibe, and a lot of obvious oil substituting for sweat. While So So is the first of the sisters to encounter Wu Ming who apologises for when she touches him because he’s supposed to keep away from women, it’s Fa Fa who’s the first one to screw him. She espies So So entering his shack where she’s become a sort of visiting maid whose first act is to cast a spell that puts all of the books he has strewn all over his floor into tidy piles. Later on Fa Fa enters the house, she and him argue, she chases him outside with a sword, then he forces her into the floor and mauls her in and around the breast area so much that she begins to like it. Yes, it’s one of those scenes that even Doc feels uneasy about watching. Then when Fei Fei comes along, things are a lot more sensual, even if Wu Tang is still in control, not to mention more explicit with plenty of camera exploration of Kudo’s body and in particular the nether regions. Then, when Pai Pai finally gets to do the dirty with this stud of a scholar, she’s more dominant in a scene which seems to be trying to be funny more than the others. The music by Fei-Lit Chan, with its employment of the ghuzheng [plucked zither] and wordless female voice, manages to be quite evocative during all this though. Rather disappointingly, we only see a few fleeting seconds of the preamble to a foursome, though there’s a rape later on even if the emphasis is more on a transformation. The money clearly wasn’t there to make it look good, with clumsy dissolves and ill-matching animation climaxing in a face ripping where flashes of white light fail to disguise the weak makeup while the soundtrack seems to jump, as if some shots were cut and never restored.
Seeing as the synopses I’ve read of this movie give it away, it won’t surprise you to learn that the committer of this horrid act is Wu Ming who isn’t all he seems. There’s a blatant cribbing of the scene in The Witches Of Eastwick where Jack Nicholson uses magic to cause Veronica Cartwright to spew up cherry pips, though that film evidently forgot to continue the idea in a nastier vein with the scouring of a vagina to be scoured. The action-led final act seems rather rushed, as if they just ran out of money and couldn’t film all the bits that were in the screenplay. The screenwriter was Kwan Tsang, whom the IMDB [not always accurate, I know] tells us didn’t script anything else at all. On the evidence of Erotic Ghost Story the movie world didn’t suffer for his otherwise absence, but then he was probably just asked to rush up something containing everything it was expected punters would want to see; a bit of action, a bit of horror, a bit of humour and a lot of sex which may have been only properly thought out on the day of shooting. But the result benefits greatly from its three leading ladies who have a considerable amount of chemistry between them, especially when they all confess at lunch “I stole your man”. They’d have been great in a Heroic Trio-like actioner as long as they were up for martial arts training. Lap-Man Tan, who often seemed to play lechers [he’s a most memorable one in City Hunter], looks like he really enjoys being both as a sleazy variant on the archetypal innocent scholar and a murderous demon [his two puppet heads on either side of his real one aren’t really too shabby either], except for when he’s supposed to be having sex. This might be hard to believe, but then, as we know, acting in love scenes tends to not be in the least bit arousing.
A neighbour whose husband can’t satisfy her needs doesn’t provide the greatest of comic relief, but some effort was made with production design, particularly the atmospheric exterior of Wu’s house with its fog that seems to surround it and even seep inside at times. In fact there were times while watching Erotic Ghost Story where I wondered if it could have been very good indeed if it had had more money spent on it, plus some rewriting of Tsang’s work; in particular the details of our foxy fox spirits are rather vague and here it’s not necessarily a good thing because we’d feel more for them if we understood their situation more. But then the all-important sex factor could have been better in a few ways too. Yet it’s hard to dislike this unashamed slice of exploitation Hong Kong style where they clearly made a real effort to put in as much as its meagre budget was able to stretch to. If 88 Films get hold of the sequels, I’ll be there. But Sex And Zen first, please.
A Hong Kong take on Hollywood’s The Witches of Eastwick spliced together with a classic Chinese fairy tale may sound a bizarre concept, but this film was a breakthrough for leading actress Amy Yip, who would go on to star in a number of local classics like Sex and Zen, To Be Number One and She Shoots Straight. Yip’s assets certainly carry the light-hearted erotic fantasy but the film isn’t all smut. It could be said to have quite a feminist sensibility, acknowledging women’s intelligence and agency as well as their sexuality.