Spooky Encounters

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

In his small town, Cheung (Sammo Hung) is a simple, fat peon, but he also has a reputation of courage, so he is known as Courageous Cheung. He is given this nickname because he never turns down a bet, even when it involves danger or potential hijinks. This dude would sleep in a haunted house or match kung fu skills with anyone, just to prove his bravery and perhaps earn some extra income. He always seem to be in trouble with the local magistrate and as such, he (the magistrate) is looking for ways to get rid of Cheung once and for all. Cheung’s wife is also sleeping with the magistrate and her husband has no idea, but the disloyal twosome are making plans to make sure Cheung never returns from his next wager. A man has dared Cheung to spend the night in a temple, but the magistrate has hired an evil sorcerer to raise the dead, which should seal the fate of the fat peon sleeping inside. But Cheung has his brave instincts and the help of a kind wizard, which just might be enough to overcome the supernatural odds stacked against him.

This is a great movie and while it seems a little cheese laden at times, I still think it deserves a look from all Hong Kong cinema fans. I know most people only think of martial arts flicks when Hong Kong is mentioned, but as Spooky Encounters shows, there is much more than fists and feet to be seen in these movies. Of course, Sammo Hung does showcase some nice kung fu at times, but this is more of a supernatural comedy, as opposed to a typical action film. But you will find some action elements, which keeps things fresh and interesting at times. Sammo is in fine form in Spooky Encounters and really shines within his role, with his usual brand of comedic antics. Sammo also wrote and directed the film, so he really had his work cut out for himself, but he delivers on all counts. I like the premise here a lot and it unfolds very well, with new twists and turns thrown in all the time. The supernatural angle is very cool and the way it is used here, it elicits more laughs than scares, I assure you. I recommend this film to all fans of Sammo and while the disc isn’t much to shout about, the movie is well worth the price to check out.

He had to wear a lot of different hats in this production, but Sammo Hung seems to come through with flying colors, as per usual. Sammo’s direction is solid as always, with plenty of visual perks and terrific composition to keep your eyes entertained. But his style never overpowers the characters and events, which ensures that the focus remains where it should be. Sammo also serves as the writer and in addition to creating a hilarious basic story, he adds in all sorts of details and small touches, which add all sorts of depth and atmosphere. But the real highlight is his performance on screen, which is filled with humorous antics and terrific martial arts action, all the bases are covered with this turn. You can also see Sammo in such films as Magnificent Butcher, Winners and Sinners, Project A, Eastern Condors, and Island of Fire. The cast also includes Chung Fat (Enter The Fat Dragon, Beauty Inspectors), Lam Ching-Ying (Mr. Vampire, Way of the Dragon), and Leung Suet-Moi.

Video: How does it look?

Spooky Encounters is presented in a 2.35:1 widescreen transfer, which is not enhanced for widescreen televisions. As is often the case with these Hong Kong flicks, the source print shows some problems, but I think this transfer does the flick justice. I could see flecks and debris on the print, but not as much as expected and I think the image is cleaner than most. The colors start off on the bland side, but once the supernatural elements kick in, they richen a shade and look as they should. I was very pleased with the contrast levels, as blacks look deep and accurate, while detail is sharp and high also. This is not a reference level transfer by any means, but I think fans of the flick will be very pleased indeed.

Audio: How does it sound?

This release includes Dolby Digital 5.1 surround options in both Cantonese and Mandarin, with solid results in both instances. I listened to both for a spell, but this review covers only the Cantonese track, which is the more preferable of the two. This film was made in 1980, so the remix here isn’t as rich as more modern flicks, but I don’t think anyone will be let down here. The surrounds do have a lot of attention, but it sounds thinner than expected, though still effective in the end. The elements come across in fine form, with no real complaints to make and I think fans will be happy with this new 5.1 mix. The dialogue is clean and always easy to hear, even though I couldn’t understand it, since I don’t speak Cantonese. This disc also includes subtitles in English, Chinese (both traditional and simplified), and Japanese.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This disc includes some production notes, as well as the film’s theatrical trailer.

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