Director: Richard Yeung
Writer: Lam Yee Hung
Producer: Mona Fong
Cast: Norman Chu Siu Keung, Philip Ko Fei, Tin Mat, Maria Yuen Chi Wai, Wong Yung, Wai Ga Man, Hung San Nam, Pak Man Biu, Jaime Chik Mei Jan, Erik Chan Ga Kei
Running Time: 86 min.
By Martin Sandison
Beginning with 1975’s Black Magic, the legendary Shaw Brothers studio began to make horror movies which became increasingly grotesque, darkly funny and gory. Most of these centred around the practices of Chinese black magic, and Seeding of a Ghost was one of the last examples of this genre before the studio closed its doors. While a little formulaic, the film is a great example of extreme cinema that had been birthed around the world, with movies as notorious as Cannibal Holocaust pushing the boundaries of what can be seen onscreen.
The movie stars two of the greatest martial arts actors of the time, Phillip Ko Fei (Techno Warriors) and Norman Tsui Siu Keung (Sword Master). They had appeared together in two of the classics of independent kung fu cinema just previous to Seeding of a Ghost, The Loot and the Challenger. A complete change of pace for both, the film does feature a couple of fights but they are presciently in the style of the Heroic Bloodshed films that revolutionised Hong Kong cinema.
In Seeding of a Ghost, Ko is a taxi driver who runs over a master of the dark arts who tells him never to become involved in his practices or he will perish. Tsui plays a successful businessman who seduces Ko’s wife Irene (Maria Yuen Chi Wai). One night, Tsui and Irene have an argument and she runs off only to be raped by a couple of delinquents. Ko goes after the two and Tsui, but to no avail. He decides to visit the Master, who puts into action the titular seeding of a ghost ceremony…
The Blu-ray release of the movie, by 88 films in the UK, is brilliant. The film looks like it could have been made yesterday, and it’s great to see a movie as schlocky as this one be given the HD treatment. There’s some really disgusting stuff on show here: A man puking up worms, a person having sex with a corpse that has come back to life and a pregnant women’s stomach exploding. The effects are on the whole animatronic, organic and great; even a little computer effect doesn’t look dated.
The influences are plain to see; mostly body horror movies that came out around the time such as David Cronenberg’s genre defining Videodrome. The biggest influence is from my favourite horror film of all time, John Carpenter’s The Thing. While of course not on the scale of the shape-shifting aliens of that masterpiece, the ending has some great shots and is on a par in terms of gore. The roots of the genre come in the form of the ideas of Chinese black magic, which could not be shown in Mainland Chinese movies post-Mao. This gives it a distinct Hong Kong style and flavour, one that could only have come out of the former Colony. An extra on the Blu-ray is a piece by film critic Calum Waddell, which goes into this historical context in detail, is very enlightening.
Director Richard Yueng Kuen, who also directed Phillip Ko Fei in the Independent kung fu classic Duel of the 7 Tigers, had a career that began in the 1960’s and stretched in to the early 1990’s. He didn’t direct much for Shaw Brothers, but shows an aptitude for the extremes of the genre. The lighting and camerawork are of a high standard, even the animatronic corpse doesn’t look too bad. Being an exploitation movie there is also a lot of nudity and sex scenes – they’re quite racy, but not too explicit. The rape scene is drawn out and hard to watch, but the act is over in a matter of a few seconds. Ko and Tsui put in two of their best performances here, especially the former who depicts the desperation of his character superbly.
Seeding of a Ghost works so well on the level of pure shlock and gore that you would be forgiven for thinking it’s without depth; at the tailend of the Shaw Brothers filmography, the studio began to embrace these types of movies – and with others of its ilk ushered in the Category 3 film, which would eventually become more explicit a few years later in Hong Kong cinema. Highly recommended.
Martin Sandison’s Rating: 8/10
Beware of spoilers in the following clip from Seeding of a Ghost: