Another Ronny Yu haunted house comedy, but without Chow Yun Fat? I don’t know, guys. In 1988, four years after THE OCCUPANT, Yu returned to his old haunt (that’s a pun) with BLESS THIS HOUSE. Fortunately by this time, when there were seven FRIDAY THE 13THs, four ELM STREETs and the first CHILD’S PLAY in existence, Yu had had a little more experience under his belt and was able to make something a little more accomplished than before, a little more stylish.
This one is about an architect named Bill (Bill Tung, reuniting with Yu after MUMMY DEAREST) who gets a promotion that allows him to move his family into a fancy house owned by the boss. He doesn’t catch on that it’s actually a punishment – the fuckin place is haunted as shit!
Of course the movie makes a point of Bill not being superstitious before he goes through this experience. He gets into trouble for disagreeing with his firm considering feng shui in their designs. His daughter Jane (Loletta Lee, THE DRAGON FROM RUSSIA, SEX & ZEN II) is more open to it and wonders if she should believe the “madman” from the nearby temple who keeps giving them the friendly advice that they should get the fuck out of there.
The Hansom Wong buffoon character in this one is her know-it-all boyfriend Biggie (Stephen Ho, LUCKY STARS GO PLACES), introduced awkwardly grooving to what the subtitles charitably call “soul music.” He’s constantly trying to take charge by claiming to have studied things (civil engineering, electrical engineering) before proceeding to fuck things up (busting a hole through the wall, blowing out the whole electrical system). At night he tries to sneak into Jane’s room, but ends up on the couch making out with a ghost in a Halloween mask.
I was curious about THE OCCUPANT having an apartment with the last owner’s belongings still in it. Here it makes sense that it’s furnished because they’re just sort of borrowing it, but as soon as they get comfortable a moving company storms in and removes everything.
Eventually Jane has to bring in a professional ghostbuster. In THE OCCUPANT Chow Yun-Fat’s brother was the expert, in this one it’s Biggie’s friend. He says “This colleague of mine is the dean of ESP research facility. He’s also The Honorary Chairman of Spiritual Society. He’s been frequently invited to host television programs.” I like the scene where the exorcist guy tries to do a spell involving a magic circle, but a haunted vacuum cleaner rolls out and sucks up all the powder. He has to fight the vacuum. This one credits a martial arts director (Leung Shi Lung, INVINCIBLE KUNG FU, RICH AND FAMOUS 2, played “The Beast” in SHAOLIN SOCCER). There’s also a scene where he’s possessed and spins a sword around like a pro.
There’s a part with a steadicam zooming through the house like an EVIL DEAD spirit, but then it turns out to be the POV of little sister Yan-Yan (Yan Chan Cheuk, THE HEROIC TRIO) riding a big wheel, so it must be a THE SHINING reference. But shortly after that you can check out what poster she inexplicably has in her room:
Eat your heart out, Stranger Things!
So that’s evidence that although far away, Yu was aware of the American horror scene that he’d be involved in in about a decade. The homage to THE EXORCIST in THE TRAIL – yeah, everybody knows THE EXORCIST. But putting an EVIL DEAD 2 poster in your movie in 1988 – that was an exclusive club.
Despite that bit of foreign film appreciation, this is one of the few movies in this Yu series so far that doesn’t have any kind of international travel, unless you count at the beginning saying their aunt bought the inflatable swimming pool in the States, or at the end saying they’re going to Singapore.
Once again we get furniture moving around on its own while they’re moving in. A creepy white faced woman appears on the roof for a second and then disappears. I think it’s a mannequin, but I’m not totally sure.
Jane finds a weird drawing under the wallpaper, kind of like in DEEP RED. And there’s a family that used to live there who you see in an old photo and then you see them actually there in color in the basement for like one second.
Bill gets possessed by ghosts during dinner, says weird shit, chugs a bowl of soup and does some tai chi moves. Later he finds out about the tragic event that happened in the house – again it belonged to a singer, this time of the opera variety, in a wheelchair, which is still in the basement, and which a zombified version of him appears in. Bill gets his car stuck in a cemetery. The wall bleeds. There’s a huge storm. Jane is hanging upside down from the ceiling. Biggie digs up an urn. Everything is washed in blue light. There is a blood explosion.
He gets possessed again and throws Yan-Yan and tries to light them all on fire and fights the Buddhist priest and there’s glowing shit and Biggie has an ax and etc. The next day they (spoiler) demolish the house and pick up the boss with a crane and drop him into it. And it ends on a freeze frame of everybody laughing, like a sitcom.
Just like THE OCCUPANT, this is not my favorite Ronny Yu picture, but it has its moments.
Tomorrow: Yu’s wild take on the Hong Kong crime drama, CHINA WHITE.
April 4th, 2023 at 2:30 pm
Hang on…is this a Spookablast???