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追鬼七雄 (1983)
The Trail

Reviewed by: cpardo
Date: 04/29/2006
Summary: Good spooky flick

A gang of opium smugglers, disguised as Taoist Priests transporting hopping corpses (with charms), are hired to transport a real dead body to it's final resting place. They accidentally lose it in a sulfur swamp--no big deal. But then the corpse reanimates itself and starts a murder spree, hoping to track down it's murderer....

I was surprised how good this movie was. When I think of Kent Cheng and Ricky Hui I always think "funny." Not this time, but I didn't mind as the story was very good and they way it unfolded and provided chills was great. The movie is very moody, has a cool atmosphere, and there is a little touch of humor here and there--dark humor. The ending is well done and the Exorcist epilogue was strange but funny.

Interesting early work from Ronny Yu. I'd watch it again--good Halloween movie!

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 02/25/2003
Summary: Weird

THE TRAIL (1983) is a strange movie indeed. Written and produced by Hong Kong's top comedian Michael Hui and starring brother Ricky and Kent Cheng, it seems that it was planned as a comedy horror in the Mr. Vampire style. It also seems that director Ronny Yu had other ideas, and films the movie totally straight - actually trying to make it scary, even, which is pretty unusual for a HK horror movie. Scenes that are clearly meant to be jokes are filmed utterly deadpan and humourless, creating a strangely sinister vibe. Other parts of the movie are clearly meant to be scary, and almost are - largely due to frighteningly intense synthy music/sound cues.

I'm not sure if the Deltamac DVD offers the complete version of the film, because there are several jumps that defy continuity, suggesting missing scenes. It is entirely possible that Ronny Yu was just trying to be obscure and mysterious though. In particular, the movie quite fails to introduce the main characters or explain what they're up to. For the record, they are a gang of opium smugglers who disguise themselves as Mr. Vampire style corpse herders and hopping corpses, thus escaping too much police attention. It takes some detective work to piece this together though.

The gang accidentally pick up a real corpse during a stop at a town, and things turn ugly when the corpse turns out not to be as dead as it should be. It wants revenge for its murder... and to eat lots of chickens, apparently.

The movie is interesting just for being so unusual. The atmosphere is very dark and moody, and the humourless jokes are novel and peculiar. The completely deadpan performances are not bad, with the show being stolen as usual by the godlike Chung Faat (whose presence is the main reason I picked up the DVD), as a silent but lethal boomerang weilding gang member.

There's not as much action as in other movies of the genre such as ENCOUNTERS OF THE SPOOKY KIND or MR. VAMPIRE - only a very little bit in fact, and only a smattering of taoist rituals. As such, the movie is not in the same league as those classics, but is an interesting curiosity never the less.

Reviewed by: SBates
Date: 02/02/2001
Summary: Unique Horror-Adventure-Comedy

This is quite an interesting movie, a mix of Gothic-style horror, adventure films, and comedy, that works well for about an hour and then loses its focus. the premise is great: In 1922 China, two opium trafickers (Kent Cheng, who plays his character as a fat lothario!, and Ricky Hui) dress up their comrades like hopping corpses, and pretend they are taoist priests,in order to smuggle opium (no soldeirs will stop them!) The problems begin when they become the caretakers of a real hopping corpse, the victim of a local warlord. During a skirmish in the woods with some bandits, they lose the body in a sulfur pit....

The atmosphere and production design are fantastic throughout this film; this film is considerably slower paced than the average HK horror film, too. The look of the film, with its haunted forests, and decrepit fog-filled castles, is much in the Western Gothic tradition. Ronny Yu mixes these motifs nicely with a Chinese sensibility, though, such as the garden of terracotta statues in the caverns of the haunted castle. Ronny Yu also keeps the funny stuff to a minimum; most of the comedy is black and satirical in nature. the film is very strong until about halfway through, once the 'monster' has made itself known, and then it begins to drag. There's also a rather pointless anti-climax involving a Chinese fat-si that is just there, it seems, to show-off the exotic accoutrements of Chinese magic. A half-haerted Exorcist-type epilogue, showing the fate of the heroes 20 yrs. later, is completely superfluous and kind of irritated me; it was a lapse into bad taste in an otherwise good film.
This film is often a foot-note in most Hong Kong film fans' minds, but it deserves to be better known. The Megastar VCD I have is really a great copy, 2.35 and with beautiful picture. Tough to find (I got in a small shop in NYC's Chinatown).