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A horror movie about ghosts, possession, reincarnation. Ah Kan (Chan Chen) encounters sinister turns of fate where he works (a fellow security guard dies by choking on a bone, another is strangled by a wet newspaper), and he becomes frightened enough to consult with a Taoist priest. The priest informs him that his workplace had been the site of kidnappings and murders, his house is another source of unnatural influence, and he was born on a day that makes him vulnerable to wandering ghosts. These dark forces also threaten his pregnant wife and unborn child, leading Ah Kan on a harrowing journey into the unknown in order to protect himself and his family. Written by
Occasionally impressive Hong Kong ghost horror story by Dennis Yu
Hong Kong film maker Dennis Yu directed this often acclaimed horror film in 1981. The Imp tells the story of an unemployed man, whose wife is pregnant and about to give birth any day. He manages to find job as nightwatch in some huge market, and he soon makes friends with his fellow nightwathers. Soon, strange things start to happen as some of his colleagues die horribly and weird smoke and noises come from the elevator shaft. This all is iced by protagonist's wife's strange behaviour as she is about to give birth to her child. This all sounds pretty chilling, and I'm glad to be able to say the film delivers, at least to some extent.
I'm mostly impressed by the film's visuals and use of mostly green smoke as an element depicting the forthcoming terror. Cinematography is also great as empty passages are very ominous as our men travel there at night without knowing about the horrors that live underneath. The music is also surprisingly effective and it is used pretty wisely, and also in scenes one wouldn't expect that kind of music i.e. it plays quietly on background during seemingly peaceful and calm parts in the film. It really tells that even though the characters don't know it, there is something very evil in the air throughout the film. The ending is more than chilling and the final scene seemed first even gratuitously gruelling, but then I realized that it is more gruelling in mental level than physical level. The viewer is left to wonder whether the character managed to win the evil spirit/ghost or not. I understand all the positive comments this film has received during all these years, and this only makes me wonder how effective are the most praised ghost horrors from Hong Kong like Rape After, a sadly rare film I haven't managed to track down.
Main problems in Dennis Yu's film are that occasionally it takes itself too seriously and becomes little unintentionally comical to watch. Also, as usual, there are some things that should have been explained more carefully, like how the priest knew exactly everything that will happen and so on. There are many scenes that don't seem to make sense if one isn't familiar with Asian traditional symbolism like what does it mean when the kitchen stove is broken. Stoves are being connected to the outcome of pregnancies, and that is one of the main points in the story as the newly born baby may be little different, if things go as wrong as possible and as the evil spirit has planned.
The effects are also nice and interesting, as there's one graphically depicted surgery, many slow moving zombies and some other scenes of terror and horror. Some scenes give genuine "shocks" as zombies appear suddenly behind characters and so on, so the viewing experience should be pretty intense, as it was in my case.
After all, I liked this more than, let's say Ching Siu Tung's Witch From Nepal (1985), which is another Hong Kong horror story from the eighties. Dennis Yu has also made films like rarely seen Beasts (1980) and Evil Cat (1986). The Imp has been remade also in Hong Kong but I don't know what's that remake like. The original has some great and memorable visuals added with great soundtrack, and overall this is noteworthy horror film for fans of Eastern cinema, but still not a masterpiece nor particularly immortal film in horror genre. 7/10
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