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赤狐書生 (2020)
Soul Snatcher

Reviewed by: STSH
Date: 12/06/2020
Summary: A frustrating mess

First, a declaration. I am an ardent fan of Chinese Ghost movies. Therefore I was able to sit through the two-odd hours of this big budget spectacular. The one consistent positive is the cinematography and look, which is lush throughout, sometimes rising to stunning and ravishing.

The major failing is that more than half of the film is irritatingly silly and pointless, a failing SS shares with scores of similar Chinese and HK movies. SS is a kind of buddy- or road-movie, and depends a lot on liking the two leads. The silliness appears to have been the main effort to build this likeableness, and clearly I don't think it worked.

The developing friendship between the kind-hearted cheating fox-spirit and the naïve scholar is unconvincing at best, and SS seems to lean hard on several impressive set-pieces to move the narrative.

The most impressive sequence is ten minutes of lavish dark horror at about the 2/3 mark. Brilliant is not too strong a description. Almost as good is the brothel sequence, which is truly ravishing.

Yet these set pieces stop the story dead instead of moving things along. The plot lurches between them.

I can only recommend SS for diehard Chinese Ghost movie fans, such as myself.

Reviewer Score: 3