Two Cents Gets Struck by THE SEVENTH CURSE

Two Cents is an original column akin to a book club for films. The Cinapse team will program films and contribute our best, most insightful, or most creative thoughts on each film using a maximum of 200 words each. Guest writers and fan comments are encouraged, as are suggestions for future entries to the column. Join us as we share our two cents on films we love, films we are curious about, and films we believe merit some discussion.

The Pick:

Director Lam Ngai Kai earned himself eternal cult godhood with 1991’s Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky, the Dead Alive of martial arts action films. Riki-Oh is a bloodbath beyond all measure, exploding skulls and shredding limbs at an astonishing rate. Every character in that film is essentially little more than an over-stuffed sausage one poke away from popping.

But Riki-Oh actually occurred at the tail-end of Kai’s career. He would make only one more film, 1992’s The Cat before dropping off the cinematic radar, concluding a long career with Golden Harvest (the same house that produced much of Jackie Chan’s output).

The gruesome goodness of Riki-Oh didn’t come out of nowhere. 1986’s The Seventh Curse combines a wide cross-section of genres, from Indiana Jones-style jungle adventure, to classically designed martial arts action, to rubber-suited monster mayhem, incorporating liberal doses of Kai’s trademark literally explosive gore.

Inspired by a pair of long-running fantasy/adventure series, The Seventh Curse stars Chin Siu-ho as Dr. Yuen Chen-hsieh, a fearless, globe-trotting doctor…who’s also kind of a cop, sometimes? Anyway, the good doctor spent some time in Thailand where he tried to rescue a beautiful native girl from being sacrificed to a carnivorous ancient god. He was rewarded for his efforts with a slow-acting curse that will, over the course of seven stages, ravage his body and leave him a bloody ruin.

In his quest to save his own life, Dr. Yuen is joined by the hyper-capable Wisely (Chow Yun-fat, the same year he first teamed with John Woo, in A Better Tomorrow), the fierce warrior Dragon (Dick Wei), and intrepid reporter Tsui Hung (future superstar Maggie Cheung). But can they defeat the evil cult’s power and stave off the monstrous, hungry gods? Or will each and every one of them be shredded down into chunky meat puddles?

Honestly, it’s anybody’s guess.

Next Week’s Pick:

Maybe you heard this, but Chucky is back. Voice by Luke Skywalker, even.

Technically, he never left. While his fellow icons of 80’s slasher-dom have gone through reboots, remakes, or been lost to extended periods of dormancy, Chucky the killer doll has chugged along steadily in a single continuity overseen by original film writer Don Mancini. Since their inception, the Chucky films have demonstrated a remarkable elasticity, covering a bizarrely wide range of styles and tones, anchored only by the twin constants of Mancini’s writing and Brad Dourif’s delightful malevolence as the voice of Chucky.

With the remake now upon us, we decided to go back to the beginning. Child’s Play was a surprise hit in 1988, perfectly poised to play off the nation’s obsession with the likes of the Cabbage Patch Kids and other dolls designed and promoted to serve as substitute friends for children.

Does Child’s Play hold up as the standard-bearer for a fright icon, or was this one due a new coat of paint?

Child’s Play is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Would you like to be a guest in next week’s Two Cents column? Simply watch and send your under-200-word review to twocents(at) anytime before midnight on Thursday!

Our Guests

Chris Chipman:

Surprisingly, I have never seen this one! The Story of Ricky (made famous by being awesome and also from a clip on The Daily Show in the Craig Kilborn days) is the more well known film from director Ngai Choi Lam.

My initial reaction is that The Seventh Curse is a movie that could be best described as a Peyote-infused mix between Temple of Doom and Big Trouble in Little China, with early Sam Raimi or Peter Jackson at the helm. The gore is over the top and the characters are broad caricatures that make little to no sense scene to scene but are still so enjoyable to watch wade through this world that you don’t really notice.

Unlike Tokyo Mighty Guy (which we discussed a couple weeks back), the main character here is actually a womanizing, abusive and problematic hero in the vein of James Bond or Indiana Jones, literally tying up a woman at one point to stop her from meddling. Chow Yun-Fat, playing a supporting role, turns out to be the more interesting and all around effective character against the evil they are facing.

Another really odd thing about the film is how much collateral damage there is. Our main character’s “silly romp” that lands him with a blood curse resulted in the death of everyone he was on expedition with. The villain is literally mashing local children to death for a spell and not only do they really not show much concern but there isn’t a scene where the children are freed. More and more people die as well while our hero tries to save just one girl.

Aside from all this weirdness and things that problematic to outright head scratching, The Seventh Curse is still a blast to watch in a weird, fever dream kind of way. (@TheChippa)

Brendan Agnew (The Norman Nerd):

Welp, I was always curious what cocaine would be like.

As will likely be a common refrain, The Seventh Curse defies explanation — but I’m gonna give it a shot anyway. Even leaving aside the fact that the film assumes at least a base level of familiarity with the “Wisely” and “Doctor Yuen” pulp adventure books (think Tony Stark and Stephen Strange, except with less armor, astral projection, and dramatic wardrobe and more witchcraft, kung fu and guns), Seventh Curse pinballs through a gauntlet of narrative conceits and genre mashups that practically dare you to keep up before throwing the next flashback or human sacrifice or possession or shootout or magic quest or hostage crises (seriously, there’s at least 4 of those) or giant monster at the viewer.

And. It. Fucking. RULES.

Call me a cat chasing a laser pointer if you want, but the unbridled glee with which Lam Nai-Choi throws his cast down the hill of this movie to see what crazy shit they can pick up along the way had me almost immediately. And if it hadn’t, you can bet that the “let them fight” finale would have endeared it to me all in on its own. Chui Sau-Lai (as Yuen) has agreeable comedic chemistry with an under-used Maggie Cheung, and Chow Yun-Fat steals the whole damn movie out from even the awesome skeleton puppets and gory creature effects. And he’s only in the film for about 10 minutes!

The Seventh Curse is a very particular groove, but it finds it nimbly and hits the gas through every crazy curve, so if that sounds like your bag –

You know what, seek this movie out even if it doesn’t. Chow Yun-Fat fighting monsters with magic and military hardware is always worth your time. (@BLCAgnew)

Trey Lawson:

I’m not really sure what I just watched. I feel like there is something about The Seventh Curse that must be getting lost in translation. There are elements of both character and exposition, especially in the first act, which just didn’t add up for me as a first-time viewer. Also — although I would count this as a plus — the film seems to change genre every few minutes. At various times it features aspects of cop movies, Indiana Jones-style adventures, and horror films (among others). Also in the film’s favor are a young Chow Yun-Fat in a key supporting role, Elvis Tsui as a very weird and creepy sorcerer, and some gnarly Alien-inspired practical effects. Not everything the movie tries works, and some of it admittedly hasn’t aged well. That said, it is certainly an ambitious production. I didn’t always get what was happening (or why) in The Seventh Curse, but at no point was I ever bored. (@T_Lawson)

The Team

Brendan Foley:

With a lot of B-grade, cultish films, you have to go in knowing that the crazy/surreal/nonsensical/gross/fun parts of the film that have enshrined it into memories and hearts of trash fans represent only a tiny fraction of the runtime (these moments tend to get emblazoned all over the poster, further cementing them in the minds of fans). Hell, the whole point of Grindhouse was to make a film in that vein that ‘lived up to’ the poster.

Well, here is a film that is nothing but those moments of inspired insanity strung together for 80 minutes. That could be tiresome, but because The Seventh Curse is constantly changing up genres and tones and finding new heights of low-budget grotesque to fling at you, it never gets old.

As with The Story of Ricky, there’s a casual disregard for human life that gets me giddy. Every single group that our ‘hero’ Dr. Yuen Chen-hsieh leads into the jungle gets reduced into chunky soup by all manner of mad deathtrap, and the climax of the film finds our assembled protagonists standing around and watching while a long line of children are fed into a stone stomping machine turning them into bubbling red soup. It’s trash that gleefully lives up to everything you want your trash to be. (@theTrueBrendanF)

Austin Vashaw:

The Seventh Curse recently showed up on Amazon Prime, and as a fan of Chow Yun Fat I immediately put it in my queue. But credit goes to a recent episode of Shock Waves podcast for truly putting it on our radar.

The Seventh Curse is just as nutty and frenetic as promised, a genre-crossing exploitation fever dream of creature horror and pulp adventure. There’s a fine line to ride when it comes to tastelessness and grotesquery, but for whatever reason this one somehow manages to get away with it. Maybe it’s the go-for-broke aesthetic of constant craziness and gleeful abandon with which teams of explorers get eviscerated by jungle traps, children are pulped into mush by great stone slabs, and ancient evil takes the form of Henelotteresque monsters. (Austin Vashaw)

Next week’s pick:

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