“Hong Kong Ghost Stories” is a film which delivers exactly as its title suggests, serving up two short tales of spooky fun, directed by immortal Hong Kong schlockmeister Wong Jing and the prolific Patrick Kong. Mixing ghosts and gags, the film boasts a number of attractive young faces in its cast including popular starlet Chrissie Chau (“The Killer who Never Kills”), Jennifer Tse (“Bruce Lee My Brother”), Stephy Tang (“Let’s Go”), Carol Yeung (“Summer Love Love”) and many others.
The fun starts with an old school Hong Kong horror type framing device set in a funeral home, in which paper figures come to life and set about making their own film (working in a lame Wong Jing reference in the process). This leads into “Classroom”, directed by Wong Jing himself, with Jennifer Tse as high school substitute teacher Ling, who is given a particularly troublesome class to look after, with riotous students refusing to behave and engaging in after-hours compensated dating/prostitution. As well as having to deal with her own problems, namely a violent stalker ex-boyfriend (Pakho Chau), poor Ling is gradually driven over the edge by her pupils, the school harbouring a dark secret.
“Classroom” is fairly standard Wong Jing fare, being lowest common denominator stuff which aims for basic and familiar scenes and scares. The haunted school plot certainly doesn’t offer anything new, heading for a final twist that even genre newcomers will likely see coming, and most of the frights have been encountered in countless other films over the years, with walls bleeding, toilet stall doors banging, and Ling being menaced by a CGI air conditioning fan. Although none of this is even remotely frightening, it all moves along briskly, with Jennifer Tse likeable in the lead, if lacking in the emotional range necessary to pull off the role. The result is a short, moderately enjoyable piece of ghostly nonsense in the early 1990s Hong Kong style, which like most of Wong Jing’s output basically recycles elements of other films, though which passes the time inoffensively – even if this to a large extent comes from unintentional laughs.
After a brief visit back to the paper ghosts in the funeral home, up next is Patrick Kong’s “Travel”, which follows a rowdy group of Hong Kong friends (Timmy Hung, Jacqueline Chong, Charmaine Fong, and Harriet Yeung) who meet up at the funeral of Bo (Chrissie Chau), a young woman they met while on holiday in Thailand who recently died in an apparent road accident. Flashbacks reveal that Bo was clearly in some kind of trouble, and when her married lover Ka Ming (Him Law) shows up at her wake, things take a turn for the sinister.
“Travel” is thankfully a great deal more fun and made with considerably more effort than “Classroom”, with Kong employing his usual kind of fractured narrative and showing a reasonable flair for ghoulishness. Although the actual story itself is a pretty straightforward ghost tale, it’s interestingly told, and shows a well-judged use of revelations, enough so to make for a few entertaining surprises and to hold the interest throughout. While there’s very little in the way of scares, the Thailand scenes add a bit of colour, and work as an amusing nod back to the days when almost every Hong Kong horror seemed to revolve around horny guys heading to the supposedly wild and exotic country in search of hookers. Kong makes up for the lack of shocks with a neat line in what might charitably be called satirical humour, packing in some HK pop culture references and digs at the entertainment industry, in particular the TVB and ATV television stations and various stars. Although this naturally makes the jokes funnier for local viewers, there’s still enough effective general joviality to be enjoyed by outsiders, and the film is funny in a way which doesn’t undermine the strengths of the plot.
With Mainland and Hong Kong genre fare becoming increasingly rare and watered down, “Hong Kong Ghost Stories” certainly comes as a welcome release. Though “Classroom” is average at best, “Travel” sees Patrick Kong working well within the form, and together the anthology should certainly be enjoyed by Hong Kong horror fans hankering for a reminder of the good old days of daft supernatural shenanigans.
Patrick Kong, Jing Wong (director) / Patrick Kong, Jing Wong (screenplay)
CAST: Chrissie Chow
Chung Him Law