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This one’s one of yours, [livejournal.com profile] xelucha. (Oh, by the way, do you want/need me to send these back or can I just hold onto them ‘til I see you again? I’d feel really bad if I mailed them & the post office lost them or f***ed them up.)

I don’t know all that much about China, but I have a theory that the more structured & repressive a culture or society is, the weirder the art is going to be.

If that holds true, then the people who made “Beauty of the Haunted House” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0344906/) are either seriously repressed or just really sexually frustrated.

There is a plot in here, buried beneath generous heapings of bad dialogue, hard-to-read (& grammatically incorrect) subtitles, & lots & lots of sex: Mr. Ai, a Chinese businessman, seeks a loan from a Japanese businessman. The two are discussing the transaction on somebody’s yacht, while Ai’s secretary/mistress, Vivi, & two other gals engage in some hardcore licking. The Japanese guy mentions that he knows Ai has a large house near Hong Kong, which he wants to buy so he can stay there when he visits HK on business. Ai says it’s his family’s house, & it’s rather old & run-down. Besides, his brother lives there, so he cannot sell it.

Being of sound business tactics (uh...not), the Japanese guy resorts to blackmail in order to force Ai’s hand. He photographs Ai cavorting with the girls & sends the pictures to Ai’s house, which, of course, has Ai frantic because he doesn’t want his wife to see them (she’s already trying to get him to fire Vivi). Ai sends his son, Eddie, & two of his other workers, Anna & Ho (who are either married or living together), to the old house to convince his (Ai's) brother, known only as Uncle, to vacate the house, & negotiate its sale to the Japanese, who are sending Mr. Kyohon, a company representative, to view the estate & discuss the deal. Uncle flatly refuses to leave unless he is taken out in a coffin, especially since they want to sell to the Japanese, who massacred many Chinese during WWII.

Eddie starts having visions of himself in a white suit, moving throughout the house. When he manifests a strong sense of déjà vu, Anna & Ho think he’s either crazy or involved with a ghost. And when a photo of a sultry, mysterious young woman surfaces, triggering strange visions, sightings, & encounters, we learn the latter is the case.

The woman is Chanel, former lover of Eddie’s grandfather (to whom Eddie bears a striking resemblance). She was captured & tortured by Japanese soldiers during the war, & was subsequently murdered. Seeking to rekindle her lost love, Chanel haunts the house & Eddie, until the boy no longer sees himself as himself but the ghost of his grandfather. Anna & Ho & even Mr. Ai - in between their own sexual escapades & business dealings - attempt to help Eddie, employing both a loopy medium & a kung-fu Taoist priest (who, I had to wonder, would win in a fight between said priest & Reverend I-Kick-Ass-For-The-Lord from Peter Jackson’s “Dead Alive”?), to no avail. I won’t tell you how it ends, suffice to say it gets somewhat more interesting & dare I say kinda fun, too.

Part porno film, part whimsical farce, part so-bad-it’s-funny movie, part kung-fu flick, part tale of love, all masquerading as a thought-provoking ghost story (just look at the DVD’s cover & you’ll think this is a serious film), there is actually some stuff in here to muse upon. The easy acceptance of spirits & ghosts - no doubt a cultural thing - is intriguing (at least from a Western point of view), as is the deep-seated hatred Uncle has for the Japanese for what the Japanese did to the Chinese during the war- there are probably still Chinese who share the sentiment. But overall, the film doesn’t really seem to know what it wants to be, & you have to endure a goodly amount of cheezy, repetitive dialogue, roving tongues, & milk-white breasts before you arrive at these darker themes. Likely, the film would have worked a whole lot better as a full-on, serious tale of spirits, war atrocities, & love transcending time. As it is, it’s all a bit silly & you have to wonder just how horny the Chinese really are.

At its best, “Beauty of the Haunted House” has some amusing little moments & interesting underlying subject matter; at its worst, skip it & go for something in the vein of real horror. When all is said & done, this film might be worthy of a badmovies.org posting, & - on a nostalgic note - I do remember thinking it was something I might’ve sent to my old friend, Ed.

August 2017

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