• Bewitched



    Released by: 88 Films
    Released on: October 17th, 2017.
    Director: Chih-Hung Kuei
    Cast: Fei Ai, Melvin Wong, Fanny Fen-Ni, Lily Chan, Choi Gwok-Hing, Hussin Bin Abu Hassan
    Year: 1981
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    The Movie:

    This twisted Shaw Brothers horror entry from 1981 begins in Hong Kong where the body of a young girl is found with a spike in her head, her corpse stashed away in the woods. It turns out this girl was the daughter of Stephan Lam (Fei Ai) and he admits to killing her. As the cops involved in the case, led by Detective Bobby Wong King-Sun (Melvin Wong), question Lam as to what happened, we see firsthand how he wound up in this dire situation.

    See, while Lam admits that he killed the girl, he also tells the cops he wasn’t responsible. Witchcraft, he claims, possessed the girl and he had no choice but to end her life with that spike. As it turns out, this all stems back to Lam’s recent visit to Thailand. Here he met a pretty local girl named Bon Brown (Lily Chan). In order to get what he wanted out of her – which was nothing more than casual sex – he told her that he loved her and that he’d return to her. When he didn’t do this, she employed the services of a Magusu (Hussin Bin Abu Hassan), a sinister expert in the ways of black magic, to get her revenge. When Stephen, back in Hong Kong, can’t get it up for his beautiful wife (Jenny Liang), he starts to wonder if the necklace that Bon gave him might have something to do with it.

    Before you know it, a monk named Da More (Choi Gwok-Hing) is doing supernatural battle with Magusu, Stephan’s body is oozing puss, his daughter really has become possessed and tries to kill him, and…. well there’s baby broth, evil bats, snakes, worms, weird sex rites and plenty more.

    Bewitched sticks to a common theme we see in a lot of Shaw Brothers horror pictures – a man from Hong Kong ventures into a more remote area of Asia, gets into trouble and winds up on the wrong side of some black magic, the kind he’d have never believed in before his own experiences proved him wrong. That said, it’s an effective enough setup. Chih-Hung Kuei (who has a few Shaw Brothers horror pictures to his credit including Hex, Hex Vs. Witchcraft, Corpse Mania and Hex After hex) sets up the film really well. The opening scene with the girl’s corpse found by a family at a picnic instantly unnerves us, creating a mood of macabre horror that is only built up as the story evolves. At the same time, there’s enough character development here to make both Stephen Lam and Wong King-Sun interesting enough characters. Magusu and Bon Brown aren’t as fleshed out as they could have been but that honestly doesn’t take away from the story all that much.

    As to the visuals, this one is pretty over the top. Chih-Hung Kuei was clearly in love with lens flares, they’re used throughout the film on a regular basis during most of the scenes involving witchcraft and the supernatural, but it works. The practical effects are sufficiently gross, gooey and icky – in one scene where Magusu is eating maggots you can tell in a quick cut that it’s actually noodles in his mouth – but aside from that, they’re effective. The baby broth scene is sufficiently disgusting and while some animal violence involving some unlucky snakes and chickens is an unfortunate product of its time, what’s here works and works well. Throw in some completely exploitative and unnecessary nudity (some of it is even in slow motion!), lots of great makeup work, a weird score and some funky costumes and this one proves a wholly entertaining mix of horror and exploitation.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The AVC encoded 1080p 1.85.1 widescreen transfer on this Blu-ray disc is pretty solid. There might have been some minor DNR applied, resulting in some slight softness and some slightly waxy skin tones, but it’s not a deal breaker. The image is pretty much pristine, showing virtually no print damage at all, while the film’s frequently garish color scheme looks great here. Black levels are solid and there are no problems with any compression artifacts. Detail and texture are typically quite good here as well.

    The only audio option on the disc is an LPCM Mono track in Cantonese with subtitles provided in English only. There are a couple of subtitles flubs here and there but otherwise the audio is problem free. The levels are well balanced and aside from some minor sibilance in a few spots, there are no issues.

    Extras start off with an audio commentary featuring Bey Logan that starts off by discussing Chih-Hung Kuei’s directing career, starting in comedy and then moving on to classics like Killer Constable and his other horror pictures like Hexed and Boxer’s Omen. After that there’s some scene specific talk about the locations and what transpires on screen, details of the court systems in the Hong Kong of the day and how it affects the plot, the effectiveness of some of the film’s camerawork and many of the cultural differences between Hong Kong and Thai culture and why it matters in the picture. He also talks about what was shot on location versus on a set at the Shaw Brothers studio, details about the different cast members that pepper the picture, and of course the details behind the supernatural elements in the film and the black magic rites we see enacted in the picture.

    Aside from that, there’s just a static menu on the disc. As far as the packaging goes, however, the first 1,000 copies ordered from 88 Films’ website come with a slipcover. Additionally, inside the clear keepcase is an insert booklet featuring an essay from Calum Waddell entitled Spook Show that expands upon the film’s theme of a man from a more westernized culture getting into trouble in less explored areas of Asia.

    The Final Word:

    Bewitched is wildly entertaining stuff, a slick and stylish looking mix of gooey gore, trashy sex and bizarre supernatural horror featuring some decent performances and unforgettable set pieces. 88 Films’ Blu-ray release presents the film in nice shape and with a solid commentary as its main extra feature. Fans of Shaw Brothers’ horror output should consider this essential.

    Click on the image below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!





























    Comments 1 Comment
    1. C.D. Workman's Avatar
      C.D. Workman -
      Reviewing OILY MANIAC a couple of months back resulted in me ordering all these 88 Films Chinese horror BD releases. I have only gotten BRIDE FROM HELL watched so far, though, because of work (one can't write and edit while watching subtitled films, unfortunately...). So far, they've looked terrific; I hope they continue these releases, as well as give us more Asian horror.
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