Reviews | Written by Ken Wynne 19/07/2021

ENCOUNTER OF THE SPOOKY KIND (1980)

Predating the breakthrough success of Ricky Lau's Mr. Vampire (1985), Sammo Hung's Encounter of the Spooky Kindcombined jiangshi "Chinese hopping vampire" folklore with kung fu to humorous effect, resulting in one of the earliest examples of horror-comedy in Hong Kong cinema.

Set during the early 20th century, Courageous Cheung (Sammo Hung) is known for his fearlessness, and in a foolish effort to uphold his reputation, accepts a challenge to spend the night at an abandoned "haunted" house. If he can peel an apple in front of a mirror without breaking the skin, he will survive the night! If not, local superstition suggests that something dreadful may happen... Unbeknownst to Cheung, his no-good friends have seized this opportunity to play a mischievous practical joke, creating a terrifying ghostly illusion!

At first, our now not-so-courageous Cheung is duped, later scolding his friends for tricking him, but all is quickly forgiven when the real ghost appears! After a narrow escape - resulting in bodily dismemberment - Cheung returns home, unaware that his promiscuous wife (Leung Suet-Mei) is having an affair with his employer, Master Tam (Huang Ha). Concerned that Cheung will discover the truth of his wife's infidelity, Tam hires Chin Hoi (Chan Lung), a Mao Shan necromancer and Taoist priest, to get rid of him permanently through supernatural means, removing all risk to his own reputation, without raising any future suspicion.

Using Cheung’s self-proclaimed courage against him, Chin tricks him into spending the night at a spooky temple where, as a result of Chin's necromancy, a jiangshi dwells! Fortunately for the oblivious Cheung, fellow Taoist priest Tsui (Chung Fat) wants nothing to do with his brother's pursuit of coin, and instead offers Cheung wisdom on how to survive... through supernatural kung fu!

As the progenitor of the "jiangshi" kung fu subgenre, Encounter of the Spooky Kind (aka Gui da gui, which literally means Ghost Fights Ghost) helped to shape the cinematic visual style of the Chinese vampire boom that followed, including Lam Ching-Ying's Vampire vs. Vampire (1989) and Ricky Lau's Mr. Vampire II (1986). In many Chinese legends, the jiangshi is depicted as a hopping reanimated corpse, arms outstretched, and dressed in traditional changshan garments from the Qing dynasty. This is also true of Sammo Hung's Encounter of the Spooky Kind; the costume and set design encapsulating the Great Qing period.

Never skipping a comedy beat, Sammo's personality is endearing throughout. From the first "jiangshi" encounter to the "chopsocky" finale, Sammo showcases his athleticism and discipline in the martial arts against the equally accomplished Yuen Biao, Lam Ching-Ying, and Huang Ha; choreographed to the tone of schlock horror, reminiscent of the Hammer and Shaw Brothers co-production, The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974).

Eureka Entertainment's 2K restoration of Encounter of the Spooky Kind comes to Blu-ray with a collector's booklet written by James Oliver, an audio commentary by Asian film expert Frank Djeng, an archival interview with Sammo Hung, alternate English opening and closing credits, the original Cantonese and English dubbed audio tracks, and reversible artwork featuring the original HK artwork and newly commissioned artwork by Darren Wheeling. It is a stunning package with one minor omission... Bey Logan's audio commentary from the original Hong Kong Legends DVD (with its reference to STARBURST Magazine!).

Through expert direction, beautiful cinematography (courtesy of Yu-Tang Li and Cho-Hua Wu), and imaginatively choreographed fight sequences, Sammo Hung set the template for the future of Hong Kong horror with Encounter of the Spooky Kind. Moments of genuine suspense, contrasted against martial arts mastery and elements of physical comedy, conjure an essential supernatural Hong Kong classic.