Sien nui yau wan [A Chinese Ghost Story] (1987)

Sien nui yau wan
Director: Siu-Tung Ching
Writer: Gai Chi Yuen
Based on: Songling Pu‘s story Liaozhai Zhiyi
Cast: Leslie Cheung, Joey Wang, Ma Wu, Wai Lam, Siu-Ming Lau
[/slash colleague cornholio1980 reviewed it here.]

Ling Choi San (Leslie Cheung) is a dutiful, timid tax collector. When he has to travel to a small village to do his job, nobody really wants to put up with him. Since he depended on the collection to have money for his trip back, he ends up spending the night at the haunted Lan Ro Temple. There he finds Lip Siu Sin (Joey Wang), a beautiful yet mysterious young woman and Yin Chek Hsia (Ma Wu), a taoist priest who is battling the evil that is lurking in the temple – and to which Lip is intricately connected.

I expected something quite different from A Chinese Ghost Story than the film I got. I was thinking along the lines of Hero (and the first few minutes seemed to prove that expectation), what we got was closer to Kung Fu Hustle. It took me a second to readjust, but I was very willing to go on that fun ride instead. And I really enjoyed it.


I don’t think that anybody will ever accuse A Chinese Ghost Story of being overly focused on any particular plot point or element of the story. Because there are many and the script keeps churning out more. A haunted temple is not enough? Let’s throw a tree demon in there. Well, the tree demon is kind of boring, how about if it was mostly made of tongue? That was fun for a while but how about a little trip to hell in the course of the mission? Hapless, animated skeletons? Etc.

I do enjoy wild rides such as these, but I have to admit that it became exhausting after a while, making the film feel way longer than it actually is. Maybe at least the trip to hell could have been left out of the film.

a-chinese-ghost-story1But most of the time it was really funny and engaging. The jokes fly left and right and I laughed a lot (despite the fact that I probably missed half of them because I am not that well-versed in Chinese culture). The characters were great, too. I enjoyed them all, even though Lip and Ling’s love story came a bit too quick. (I don’t like it a lot usually when a love story starts before its protagonists actually know each other or have talked to each other. But ok.)

It was a slightly unhinged film with some decent special effects, really good laughs and very nice camera work. What’s not to enjoy about that?

a-chinese-ghost-story2Summarizing: If you’re in the mood for something light.

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