Movie Reviews

A Chinese Ghost Story: Classics should be left alone

By inSing EditorMovies - 25 April 2011 12:00 PM | Updated 26 April 2011

A Chinese Ghost Story: Classics should be left alone

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Rating: 3 stars out of 5

The stars: Louis Koo, Liu Yi Fei, Yu Shao Qun

The Buzz: A US $20 million remake of the classic Chinese movie, by Ip Man director Wilson Yip.

The Story: Ning (Yu Shao Qun), a naïve scholar, stumbles onto a nest of demons residing in a temple, and becomes friends with a fox spirit Siu Sin (Liu Yifei) trapped there. Demon hunter Yan Chixia (Louis Koo) arrives to slay the head demon, who is revealed to have a previous relationship with Siu Sin, and comes between the two.

InSing says: You shouldn’t tinker with a classic. The 1987 version of A Chinese Ghost Story was directed by Tsui Hark, starred Leslie Cheung and Joey Wong and the film has iconic status. Cheung’s take on the innocent, virginal scholar Ning is one of his best performances.

Pity that in the remake things get complicated and messy, and the special effects are the only part of the movie that is superior to the original. For the remake, the key difference is that the demon hunter played by Koo was romantically involved with Siu Sin, the fox spirit, and a love triangle develops between the two of them and the scholar Ning. Throw in a few more demon spirits, more demon hunters and things get more complex while obscuring the simplicity of the original to no added effect.

The screenwriters have also appeared to throw in Twilight-like elements, as Siu Sin absorbs Ning’s energy in a vampiric exchange, but a moment later they’re kissing as if nothing happened.

Yip’s directing is patchy and choppy, and Yu just isn’t up to the task of playing the naïve scholar. That said, the film, after an initial confusing half-hour, does become watchable, but even when the dizzying special effects come in, one still hankers for the stop motion ghouls and the flying heads that spouted from the villain’s body, which had a distinct charm.