"Haunted Screen: Hong Kong Ghost Films" to reflect Hong Kong's history and the paranormal (with photos)

     Horror films with monstrous creatures, vampire movies infused with kung fu and comedy, reincarnation stories in Cantonese opera and tales of glamorous phantoms have all played important roles in Hong Kong's cinematic history, yet the horror genre has never been seriously analysed by scholars and industry professionals. To coincide with Lingnan University and the Chinese University of Hong Kong's upcoming "The Ghost Cultural Festival" symposium, the Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA) will present "Haunted Screen: Hong Kong Ghost Films", with classic horror films from the 1950s to the 1980s to reflect Hong Kong's history and the evolution of its culture.

     The new programme, guest-curated by film scholar Wei Ping, will be held from November 3 to 28. The films to be screened include director Zhu Shilin's "The Living Corpse" (1958); "Mid-Nightmare" (1962), starring Betty Loh Ti and Chao Lei; "Love in the Red Chamber" (1968), featuring repertoire of the Sin Fung Ming Opera Troupe and starring Connie Chan and Nam Hung; Lau Kar-leung's classic work "The Shadow Boxing" (1979); and Sammo Hung's slapstick comedy "The Dead and the Deadly" (1982).

     The HKFA's popular "100 Must-see Hong Kong Movies" series in November will also screen "Mr. Vampire" (1985), which inspired a fad of vampire movies, and "Rouge" (1988), starring Leslie Cheung and Anita Mui. All seven films will be screened at the HKFA while "Mr Vampire" and "Rouge" will also be screened at Broadway Cinematheque.

     A consistent motif in Hong Kong horror films is the presence of monstrous creatures, with the popular vampire haunting the silver screen in various forms since the 1930s. In the 1960s, Hong Kong cinema blended with other art forms like Cantonese opera to create a unique type of reincarnation film. Despite the influence of popular vampire films from the West, Hong Kong vampire films were able to sustain a unique character by integrating folk tales, comedy and even martial arts into the vampire genre, igniting a new trend of vampire movies all over Asia in the 1980s.

     Famed director Zhu Shilin tried his hand at making a horror film in "The Living Corpse", in which a drug trafficking operation disguised as "corpse driving" and a Taoist priest's sanctimonious and mystifying behaviour are exposed as hoaxes. What makes Zhu's film stand out is its successful blending of sound and image to create an atmosphere that is both horrifying and folkloric. His frequent use of long, empty shots and crisp editing give this horror film a traditional poetic charm with a strong folk flavour. The chairman of the Cantonese Cinema Study Association, Mr Shu Kei, will host a post-screening talk on November 21.
     Adapted from the French novel "The Phantom of the Opera", director Yuan Qiufeng's "Mid-Nightmare" offers a "huangmei diao" opera flavour in its play-within-a-play sequence and the setting of a teahouse theatre to show the local Cantonese culture as well as present a brilliant performance from Betty Loh Ti. Directed by Wong Hok-sing, "Love in the Red Chamber" is a posthumous work by the famous librettist Tong Tik-sang with beautiful and refined dialogue and lyrics. In her two roles, Nam Hung provides a charming contrast while Connie Chan cross-dresses to portray a passionate but ultimately weak scholar.

     The Xiangxi folk legend of "corpse driving" has frequently been highlighted in Hong Kong cinema. Director Lau Kar-leung's "The Shadow Boxing" not only showed local vampire folklore intelligently but fused it with kung fu, comedy and rich performances with comic appeal, making the film one of Lau's representative works. The classic is also one of the pioneers within its genre and was an inspiration for the Hong Kong vampire films in the 1980s. Sammo Hung's "The Dead and the Deadly" represents the emerging postmodern culture of its time and was influenced by slapstick comedy, farce, action and kung fu. The film draws on folk legend with horror atmosphere and expresses that mankind can be more horrible than a ghost. The research officer of the HKFA, Mr Po Fung, will share his views with the audience at the post-screening talk on November 28.

     Director Ricky Lau's "Mr. Vampire" created a new star in Lam Ching-ying as the unique Taoist priest symbolising local religious and cultural traditions. The romance between the scholar and the ghost, martial arts action scenes and comedy treatments all blended to create a classical model for many locally flavoured, genre-blending vampire films. Scholar Dr Neky Cheung will host a post-screening talk on November 3.

     The "Ghost Film Festival Seminar" will be held at 4pm after the screening of "Mr. Vampire" on November 11 on the first floor of Broadway Cinematheque. It will be hosted by the HKFA's programmer, Ms Winnie Fu, and the speakers will include scholars and critics Mr Lai Chi-tim, Mr Oscar Ho, Mr Leung Ping-kwan, Ms Mary Wong, Mr Ernest Chan and Mr Po Fung.

     "Rouge" centres on an alluring female ghost who comes to modern times to search for her old lover. The decadent glamour and passionate feeling of old love reflexively comment on the passage of time and cultural changes of Hong Kong. Film critic Ms Natalia Chan will host the post-screening talk on November 17 at the HKFA, while Mr Giorgio Biancorosso and Mr Bede Cheng will share their views with the audience after the screening on November 25 at Broadway Cinematheque.

     Except for the post-screening talk on "Rouge" on November 25, which will be conducted in English and Chinese, the other post-screening talks and the seminar will be conducted in Cantonese. Admission to the talks and the seminar is free. All films are in Cantonese or dubbed in Cantonese, while "Mr. Vampire" and "Rouge" have Chinese and English subtitles.

     Tickets for screenings at the HKFA are priced at $40 and are now available at URBTIX outlets. Credit card bookings can be made on 2111 5999 or on the Internet at www.urbtix.hk. Tickets for screenings at Broadway Cinematheque are priced at $55 and are now available at Broadway Cinematheque and its website. Phone ticketing can be made on 2388 3188 or on the Internet at www.cinema.com.hk.

     Detailed programme information can be found in "ProFolio 65" leaflets distributed at all performing arts venues of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. For enquiries, please call 2739 2139 or 2734 2900, or browse the webpage at www.filmarchive.gov.hk or www.lcsd.gov.hk/CE/CulturalService/filmprog/english/2012hs/2012hs_index.html.

Ends/Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Issued at HKT 17:25