Bewitched and The Oily Maniac - a double review

Discussion in 'Asian Horror and Other Pleasures' started by Kim Bruun, Aug 16, 2018.

  1. Kim Bruun

    Kim Bruun Resident Scream Queen

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    I've never truly immersed myself in Asian horror cinema. Sure, I'd seen The Ring, Ju-On, Kairo, One Missed Call, Dark Water, and The Eye, and I know of the Guinea Pig series. I've also seen Chorake and Killer Snakes (both of which I dug), a couple of the flying vampire head movies, and Calamity of Snakes, but Asian horror cinema was never really an obsession for me, like slashers, Italian horror, or regional US horror.

    I've nevertheless been feeling a bit curious, so I ordered two from the 88 Asia collection, namely Bewitched and The Oily Maniac. Why these two? One for the graphic imagery I'd seen online, and one for the outrageous title. Now, did they wet my appetite for more?

    Bewitched
    opens with the gruesome discovery of the corpse of a young girl with a nail driven through her skull. The girl, it turns out, was murdered by her father Stephen, and while he admits to the deed, he claims that a curse made him do it. Said curse has also rendered him impotent and covered with blisters and unsightly body hair. At its best, Bewitched is a special effects show and really gross, but there's an unevenness of tone that made my toes curl to the point that I went down a shoe size or two. See, the reason for Stephen's curse is a jilted lover. He had been on vacation in Thailand, were he met a woman he took for a high class call girl. So high class that she refuses his money. The two communicate in very broken English (obviously meant to be funny, but it isn't), and he finally gains her "services" by buying her a cheap-ass piece of jewellery. After getting his rocks off, he goes home to Hong Kong. The only issue is that she's in love with him, and has had a mercenary warlock place two curses on him in the event that he doesn't return to her. It's not so much the plot device itself, but the goofy way it is dramatized. I simply couldn't understand why the woman became infatuated with Stephen to the point that she'd wish a slow, horrible death upon him if she couldn't have him. It was just a few days of nice sex. Get over it, honey.

    A policeman named Bobby, sceptical of the supernatural, becomes involved, and sets out if not to clear Stephen's name, then at least find someone who can lift the curse. He eventually finds a Buddhist monk who engages in a mystical extended duel with the evil warlock. Before the movie is over, more spells will have been cast, with Bobby now finding himself at the receiving end, which proves most impractical, as the movie introduces a mentally challenged character (played for laughs, which is both insulting and unfunny) who requires the attention of the police more than once. Of course, the special effects are wildly entertaining, but I can't really go into them without spoiling the movie:

    The most gross-out moment is when Stephen becomes the victim of a third curse. At this point he's hospitalised and covered in bandages from head to toe, with body fluids oozing through the bandages. He suddenly becomes violently ill and starts throwing up... worms. At this point, poor Stephen decides he's had enough and stabs himself repeatedly in the gut with a broken bottle.

    Bewitched 1.jpg

    Nearly as disgusting is the warlock's jar of spell-enhancing goodies. While the monk and the warlock, one in his temple and the other in his lair, fight for mystical dominance, each resorts to various magical implements and components to beat the other. At one point, the warlock decides that not one, but two gulps of liquid from the jar of guts and dead babies are necessary. Ew!

    Bewitched 2.jpg

    Of course, the warlock finally gets his comeuppance in a final confrontation with the monk. The warlock gets covered in huge, bursting blisters, is transformed into an old woman(?), tries to escape through the mouth of his old woman form in the shape of the most incredibly fake bat you've ever seen(?!), and ends up being caught by the monk and tucked in his pocket(?!!).

    The Oily Maniac concerns the crippled Shen, whose uncle has been sentenced to death. Before his execution, the uncle shares the secret of a spell which allows the user to transform into a powerful oily creature. The uncle also warns that the spell must only be used in the name justice, which Shen then proceeds to do. Rapists, unscrupulous lawyers, incompetent plastic surgeons, and a woman who falsely accuses a man of rape (how about that in these #MeToo times) all meet their greasy ends at the hands of the oily maniac.

    Oily 1.jpg

    While obviously a guy in a suit, the oily maniac himself looks pretty cool. Until he transforms into an oil slick, that is. When the oily maniac needs to move quickly, he turns into the clumsiest optical effect imaginable. The gore is minimal, but there's lots of skin. I read in a review that nearly all of the actresses in it are topless at one point or another, and it's true. One of them has had botched plastic surgery and shamefully reveals a droopy, scarred breast to a sleazy lawyer. Compared to Bewitched, The Oily Maniac is never as all-out gross, but on the plus side, it doesn't hit any real bum thespian notes. The lead actor, Danny Lee, is likable throughout, and you never feel that any of his victims got less than they deserved.
    And even so, poor Shen is punished in the end, when a well-meaning young woman sets his oily ass on fire and ends his crusade against injustice.
    The Oily Maniac may overreach itself as a special effects show, but it's fast-paced and never boring.

    So... did Bewitched and The Oily Maniac wet my appetite for more 70's and 80's Asian horror. Kind of. I liked both, but perhaps not unreservedly so. I'd be curious to see something from the same period with the best qualities of both but without the flaws.
     
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  2. Paff

    Paff Super Moderator

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    I really wouldn't look to 70s/80s Hong Kong as a source for horror films. There's some good ones there (Seeding of a Ghost is a particular fave) but that's definitely an era where they mostly left it to the Italians and Americans. Hell, even "vampire" films from that era are really just martial arts movies.

    If I were to suggest where to begin finding Asian horror, you kinda want to look for films made in the late 90s and afterwards, and concentrate on Japan and South Korea.
     
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  3. Kim Bruun

    Kim Bruun Resident Scream Queen

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    Thank you for your feedback, Paff. :) I actually think Killer Snakes, which I mentioned above, is a good contender. Calum Waddell compares it to The Oily Maniac, but Killer Snakes is a much darker movie. It's seedy, has absolutely no sense of humour, and then there's the animal cruelty (a regrettable aspect, considering that it's otherwise an excellent movie).

    I'm curious about Seeding of a Ghost. It looks like it has a lot in common with Bewitched - like the uneven tone and over-the-top grotesqueries. I've seen a few of the late 90's and onwards Japanese and South Korean horror movies. At one point, they started to feel a bit interchangeable to me. I still consider The Ring a classic, though.
     
  4. msw7

    msw7 Re-animated member

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    The movies from Hong Kong are so tonally different from anything you'd see from Japan or South Korea it's hard for me to lump them all together as "asian" - they really don't fit neatly into one category like that.

    Early 90s Category III movies from Hong Kong had some very good entries though (and not all sleazy) - Remains of a Woman was pretty good, as a more dramatic than sleazy/gory horror. Dream Home was a relatively more recent good scary/bloody entry as well. If you want sleazy though, Ivan Lai's The Imp was ridiculous, as was Red to Kill, Ebola Syndrome, Dr. Lamb, etc.
     
  5. Paff

    Paff Super Moderator

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    Dream Home is fucking GREAT, though that's a recent film. Another decent Cat 3 from a while back (that's more horror than porn, which is what most Cat 3s are) is The Untold Story.
     
  6. russweiss

    russweiss Well-Known Member

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    One of my favorite's is Run and Kill from 1993. It's listed as a crime/action film but has some truly gritty and horrific scenes. If you like fantasy films there are a ton of them. If you haven't seen Chinese Ghost Story it is a must. Also check out Peacock King, Legend of Wisely, Story of Ricky, Magic Cop, Saviour of the Soul, Royal Tramp 1 & 2, God of Gambler's 3..... and the list goes on.
     
  7. Paff

    Paff Super Moderator

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    Late 80s, early 90s Hong Kong is easily one of my top 5 favorite eras in cinema history. Right up there with 70s NY crime films, 70s gialli, etc. Hell, I rate it even higher than 80s slashers.

    It's just not a big horror era, that's all.
     

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