YC (2009)
The First 7th Night

Reviewed by: ororama
Date: 04/17/2010

The First 7th Night skillfully combines a ghost story and a gangster drama.

A cab driver called Map King (Gordon Lam) reluctantly agrees to guide a truck driver called Pony (Julian Cheung) to a remote village, for a substantial premium over the normal fare, because no one else will take the job. Pony suggests that they talk over the radio to pass the time, and inquires about a restaurant in the village. Map King tells the story of its destruction, involving the woman who ran it, the ghost of her husband who has returned to visit her a week after his death, and bandits.

After a brief stop, Pony and Map King are forced to continue together in Pony's truck. Pony tells a variation on the same story, with similar events but radically different motivations for the characters and significance to their actions.

The movie initially seems to be primarily the tale of the bandits, with the ghost story and a bit of social commentary laid over it. However, the story is carefully constructed so that everything comes together in the end. It becomes clear who Map King is during the telling of the two stories, but the identity of Pony, the nature of his cargo, and how he knows what happened thirty years before remains a mystery until the end.

Director Herman Yau does an excellent job creating a sense of danger and suspense as the bandits interact with the woman, and of fear and wonder as the supernatural and natural worlds intersect. The actors all give strong performances, with Michelle Ye particularly impressive as the woman who runs the restaurant.

The First 7th Night seems at first glance to be a modest combination of two popular film genres, but its well-written and original story, skilled direction and acting, and unusual approach to its well-established genres combine to make a whole that seems more than the sum of its parts. The result is a small gem that is well worth seeking out.

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 10/10/2009

Gorehounds getting their hopes up for The First 7th Night being a splatter-fest, since it features The Untold Story's director Herman Yau and carries a Category III rating, will probably be disappointed. But, despite the lack of claret, this is a very solid movie that's a canny mix of the traditional Hong Kong ghost movie and a crime drama.

Reviewer Score: 7