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The Seventh Curse (1986)

TheseventhcurseI will be the first to admit that, as much as I might try to broaden my horror horizons, quite often I’ll fall back into old/bad habits – and genres – if given half a chance or if I’m having a bad day. Or it’s Thursday. Certain things – like zombies and found footage – are just like comfort food for me. So if it had been 100% up to me I probably would never have chosen to watch The Seventh Curse myself – which is why I’m very glad that a friend streamed it for a bunch of us a while back, because this film is completely and utterly bananas.

Dr. Yuen has a problem. A year previously while in Thailand, he rescued a young woman from being sacrificed, and as a result was cursed by the leader of the Worm Tribe. Now the curse has been activated and will kill him in a matter of days unless he returns to Thailand to defeat the evil Worm Tribe once and for all. With the help of his pipe-smoking friend Wisely, an ambitious young reporter called Rainbow, and Bachu, the woman he saved originally, Yuen will battle evil sorcerers, kung-fu Buddhist monks, and demons as he seeks the cure for his deadly curse.

The Seventh Curse is based on the Dr. Yuen novel series by Hong Kong-American writer Ni Kuang (I can’t tell you if it was based on any one specific novel out of the 300 novels Ni Kuang has written because I can’t find any English translations of the titles, but it’s probably a safe bet). Yuen’s friend Wisely, who he goes to for advice when the titular curse kicks in – by making his leg swell up and spray blood everywhere – also has his own series of novels, and is played in this movie by none other than Chow Yun-fat. I actually went looking to see if any of these books were available to read, but sadly the answer appears to either be, “No,” or, “Only if you read Chinese,” which is a shame because I’d totally be up for reading Wuxia James Bond fighting cults and demons.

“Wuxia James Bond fights cults and demons” is probably the most succinct description of the film as well – although it still somehow manages to downplay just how seriously barking mad the film is. Dr. Yuen is a doctor… but he’s apparently also some kind of supercop, because at the start of the film he’s called in to help deal with a hostage situation in an office building. After that, he gets home and finds a mysterious stranger is his apartment who, after a quick kung-fu fight, reminds Yuen about his curse and tells him not to have sex as that will speed the curse up (No prizes for guessing what Yuen promptly goes and does, and what happens as a result of it). After that, it’s a quick trip to Wisely’s house, who smokes a pipe while Yuen recounts/flashes back to the circumstances that led to his curse (which he had apparently forgotten about until now), and then it’s off to Thailand to sort this all out. We are barely one-third of the way through the film at this point.

And things don’t slow down or get any less insane for the rest of the film either. Some of the other features of The Seventh Curse include: a bunch of children kidnapped and fed into a giant stone “juicer” for a ritual; a demon-worm-fetus thing made from the blood of the aforementioned juiced children; a genderfluid evil cult leader; another demon, this one apparently called “Old Ancestor” who starts off as “just” an animated skeleton but inflates or ‘roids up for battle after snacking on fresh spinal fluid; and a kung-fu wire fight where Dr. Yuen and one of his companions fight a bevy of armed Buddhist monks while climbing a giant Buddha statue. I’d say that you couldn’t make this stuff up, but someone clearly did and the world is clearly the better for it.

As I said earlier, because all the Dr. Yuen and Wisely novels are written in Chinese and I can’t find any translations, I can’t say for certain whether all of this craziness comes solely from the novels or if any of it came from the mind of the film’s director, Ngai Choi Lam, who also directed such films as Erotic Ghost Story and the infamous Story of Ricky aka Riki-Oh. Looking at his filmography (hell, just at Riki-Oh) the guy definitely has a thing for ridiculously over-the-top stuff.

Alas, the film isn’t quite perfect in its absurdity. The character of “Rainbow” (seriously, that’s her name in the dubbing at least) is apparently only in the film for three reasons: to be annoying; to get captured/get into trouble as an added incentive for the protagonist(s) to sort things out (as if the deadly curse on Yuen wasn’t incentive enough); and to be a red herring love interest. Chow Yun-fat as Wisely also feels a little underused as well – some of that probably comes down to our being used to seeing him in bigger (later) roles in films like Hard Boiled and The Replacement Killers, but his role here also feels more than a little deus ex machina – especially at the film’s climax, where he quite literally turns up with a rocket launcher to solve any unresolved problems. It just doesn’t feel like there’s any real danger with Wisely around, like an eight-year-old with an Everything-Proof shield. Perhaps that’s part of the film’s charm though – it’s so gloriously and unashamedly crazy that it can get away with things like this.

3.5 out of 5.

 

 


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