Sunday, 10 November 2013

House of the Damned

Director: Bosco Lam
Writer: Bosco Lam, Jessica Chan
Producer: Lee Siu Kay
Cast: Wan Tin Chiu, Teresa Mak, Chapman To, Law Lan
Year of release: 1999
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed from: HK VCD (Universe)

Here’s a reasonably entertaining ghost story from the director of A Chinese Torture Chamber Story. Kiki and ‘Big Bust’ are two friends who move into a scuzzy but cheap bedsit, owned by a creepy, wheelchair bound old lady. What they don’t know is that the previous occupant was a prostitute who was raped by an invisible ghost then thrown out the window to her death.

Big Bust, being something of a naive bimbo, invites a self-proclaimed ghostbuster, Chow Tung, back to their room and consents to have sex to help ward off the ghost she senses there, but Chow Tung scarpers when he realises the room actually is haunted. Kiki, being a practising Christian, is unaffected by - and doesn’t believe in - ghosts.

The two girls are actresses, which gives us a chance to see them filming a horror movie. As they shoot a scene where they run from a hopping vampire (played by their nerdy friend Chak, who also claims to know about ghosts) who is in turn chased by a priest (played by Chow Tung), a driverless car hurtles towards them and Chow Tung is killed. Fortunately, despite Chak and Chow Tung’s bullshit, there is a genuine ghostbuster on hand - the unit driver, Chiu.

It turns out that, in a reversal of Psycho, the old lady keeps her son’s rotting body in the house. He committed suicide after being betrayed by his wife, and now his ghost punishes loose women.

For the most part, House of the Damned is a comedy, with topless female nudity and sex-mad nerds making it almost like Confessions of a Chinese Exorcist. The acting is passable, the direction workmanlike and the English subtitles barely literate, although the effects - largely limited to spooky lighting and handheld POV shots - are nicely effective. The last twenty minutes or so, in which Chiu and Chak attempt to save the girls, up the effects quotient and the tension, leading to a denouement which is both scary and fun.

MJS rating: B
review originally posted before November 2004

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