Encounter of the Spooky Kind (1980) Review

"Encounter of the Spooky Kind" Chinese Theatrical Poster

"Encounter of the Spooky Kind" Chinese Theatrical Poster

AKA: Close Encounters of The Spooky Kind
Director: Sammo Hung
Producer: Raymond Chow
Cast: Sammo Hung, Chung Fat, Peter Chan, Huang Ha, Lam Ching Ying, Wu Ma, Tai Bo, Billy Chan, Chin Lung, Cheung Ging Boh, Fung King Man, Fung Lee, Ho Pak Kwong, Ng Min Kan, Pang Yun Cheung, To Siu Ming, Yuen Mao, Leung Suet Mei
Running Time: 98 min.

By JJ Hatfield

The first time I saw this movie it was in the form of a very ancient and quite heavy dusty old VHS tape. The story was immensely confusing because there were no subtitles and the audio was streaming crackles in Mandarin. But I saw enough to know this was a better than average action flick with plenty of Sammo style humor. Sammo has the ability to be very funny and to write and direct comedy. There are times however when he just takes a topic and wrings it out until it loses any capacity for humor. It still is a bit heavy on the hokey side but a definite all around entertaining flick for Sammo fans and those who appreciate “old school” martial arts and comedy.

Sammo plays a character who is called “Courageous” (in some versions “Courage” or “Bold” in the dub) but his real character is almost completely the opposite. Despite his fear of nearly everything for enough money he agrees to stay in a house that is supposedly haunted. In the mean time his wife has been cheating on him with a wealthy lover who decides “Courageous” should be killed to simplify matters and leave his wife open to marriage. Her lover pays an evil Tao priest to kill Courageous by magic.

Fortunately the priest’s brother discovers the sinister plan and helps “Courageous” to stay alive in an environment with all kinds of evil, zombies, ghosts, mummies, more spirits…

Does “Courageous” survive the onslaught of evil unleashed upon him? Well long enough to pull out all the stops in the big fight scene! And what a fight! Sammo looks good and makes his opponent, corporeal or not look good too! Dick Wei gets some well deserved screen time as a Master.

As often with movies, especially Sammo movies the end finale/fight is well worth the wait. And this is very much a Sammo movie – directed, screenplay, lead actor, action choreography. Yuen Biao assisted with choreography and even has a cameo as a vampire but Sammo owns the movie.

He cannot rely on his own skills to survive and is able with the help of the evil priest to take on the aura of the “Monkey God”. (This is a little confusing because it is not the Monkey God *himself* but the spirit/fighting form.) It’s a Sammo style finish to a basic entertaining film.

JJ Hatfield’s Rating: 6.5/10

By Numskull

After hearing this movie favorably compared to Mr. Vampire – one of my top five favorite HK flicks of all time – my expectations were pretty high. Sammo Hung being at the helm only made them higher.

Well, now I’ve seen it, and though it was certainly enjoyable, it did leave me a little disappointed. Why? There was more chop-socky here than I anticipated; that, in and of itself, is not a detriment, but the supernatural element is kind of downplayed. Some more humor would have been nice, too, since the little that IS here ain’t half bad for the most part.

Things start off kind of slow, but I knew Sammo would eventually deliver the goods. The action kicks in when “Courageous” Cheung spends the night in a temple while the sorcerer hired to killl him manipulates a corpse from afar. Sorta like the old Warner Bros. cartoons where Daffy Duck is tormented by an unseen animator. I was hoping the whole movie would play out in similar fashion. No such luck. Sammo defies the odds, escapes the temple shaken but unharmed, and then gets accused of murdering his bitchy, unfaithful wife.

Subsequently, Sammo does some mighty fine fighting but the two magicians just chant their gibberish and control peoples’ bodies. The focus is almost as much on the duel of wizardry as it is on Sammo trying not to get killed. The scene where a corpse mimics his movements may be funny to some, but I thought it was rather pointless. The evil sorcerer enchanting one of Sammo’s arms so it attacks people against his will is splendid, though (and it also proves that the guys who wrote Evil Dead 2 have seen this movie at least once).

A slick and lengthy martial arts battle polishes off the main plot and is followed by a one-two surprise punch. For the first one, my reaction was, “Well, shit, that kinda sucks.” But the final few moments of the entire film had me clapping my hands and squealing with delight. Am I a sick bastard? That’s debatable, but you don’t have to be a warped person to get a charge out of the ending.

I suppose this and Mr. Vampire would make a pretty cool double feature, though folks who have seen both films will no doubt have noticed that the latter owes a debt of gratitude to Sammo’s movie for the “substitute rice” bit. I definitely prefer Mr. Vampire over this, but credit must be given where it’s due.

Not a bad film, not by a longshot…but not quite what I was hoping for. Also, when the chicken gets decapitated…is that for real? Hong Kong, 1980? My gut says yes. Tsui Hark maimed a dog for The Blade 16 years later, so it seems safe to assume that Sammo could’ve gotten away with killing a chicken for this movie without creating too much of a fuss. Oh well, life goes on. Except for the chicken.

Numskull’s Rating: 7/10

By Vic Nguyen

The film that was thought to have revolutionized the Hong Kong horror genre, this Sammo Hung film evenly blends fantastic, acrobatic action, light hearted comedy, and some genuine scares. Hung stars as Courageous Cheung, a coward whose reputation proves otherwise. When he discovers a secret that might destroy the career of a politician, he becomes the target of a taoist priest whom the politician has assigned to kill him. A wonderful all around martial arts/horror piece that is yet another superb film by Sammo Hung.

Vic Nguyen’s Rating: 9/10

By Perkele

This is one of the very best martial arts/fantasy movies there is, and the film that made me a serious HK-movie fanatic. Amazing masterpiece that upstages all Jackie Chan movies in existence and shows us once again the masterful talent of Sammo Hung.

Comedy is funny [but I still can’t figure out the scene where the mirror eats the guy; what’s the point?], special effects are cool and the fighting is Sammo’s best work [this time as a fighter, Yuen Biao did the choreography].

The film has few of the most memorable fight scenes in movie history [for me at least]: the tea-house fight (where Sammo’s arm is possessed and he has to fight with Lam Ching-Yin and his henchmen), the gyonshi fight (where Sammo duels the immortal zombie in the temple; most hilarious fight ever!) and ultimately the final showdown, where the two taoist wizards call spirits and gods to take over their assistans.

Rent it or buy it, I guarantee you’ll be satisfied.

Perkele’s Rating: 10/10

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About JJ Hatfield

i like movies
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3 Responses to Encounter of the Spooky Kind (1980) Review

  1. JJ Hatfield says:

    Perkele – Yuen Biao is incredible isn’t he? That man can do so much with his body it’s unique and impressive! Biao does choreography just as well. He is a big reason this movie works as well as it does.

  2. T. J. Gushiniere says:

    I especially loved the ending to this one! JJ as you know, I was never a big fan of the super natural combined with martial arts. This one is a rare exception that I enjoyed due to Sammo. As you stated he makes this goofy combination work! Good rating, I may go as far as 7/10.

  3. JJ Hatfield says:

    Sometimes the magic gets out of hand (no pun intended for those who know this movie well 🙂

    For those who don’t care for Sammo (or Wong Jing) humor this movie is a bit less goofy. It helps to have a bit of a plot to string events together.

    It’s strange – Hong Kong, Asia in general has been putting out high voltage action flicks for years and people took this film to task about “spousal abuse”. I suppose they only thought about the act taken out of context. All in all good entertainment.

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