orror comedies have always been popular in Hong
Kong cinema, and the sub genre has produced a number of classic films such
as Sammo Hung's "Close
Encounters of the Spooky Kind" and the enduring "Mr.
Vampire" series. These films have a uniquely Asian feel to them,
combining traditional Eastern mysticism and treatments of the supernatural
that are quite different from their Western counterparts. "Last Ghost
Standing", a more recent stab at combining chills with laughs, is a
very different animal which proudly pays homage to a number of Hollywood and
European horrors, whilst throwing in some typically wacky Hong Kong humour
and filmic references.
In this case, 'homage' is
possibly too kind a word, as even casual fans of the horror genre will
recognise a number of scenes which have been liberally pilfered, most
notably from Sam Raimi's "Evil Dead 2". Although by no means an
entirely successful film, and despite the lack of originality, "Last
Ghost Standing" has enough imagination and charm to provide an
entertaining diversion which genre fans should find enjoyable, if not
The film is set in 1999, on the eve of the new
millennium and during the last performance in an old, run down cinema
which is just about to close, and whose address just happens to be '666
King's Road'. The plot begins as cinema worker Yeung (Simon Lui, long time
star of the neverending "Troublesome
Night" series, and the writer of the book upon which "Last
Ghost Standing" is based) arrives at work with his girlfriend Yiu Yiu
(Sherming Yiu, another "Troublesome Night" veteran). Although
the couple seems to have a happy relationship, Yiu is troubled by her
man's inability to express his love, a fact seized upon by a bizarre
stranger (Francis Ng) who mysteriously appears next to her in the deserted
The stranger turns out to be none other than Satan
himself (as indicated by his use of black eye liner, apparently), who
decides to test Yeung's love for Yiu through the logical route of
possessing her, tearing her head off and reanimating it, then setting
loose a variety of odd ghouls in the cinema where Yeung works. As the
monsters rampage, Yeung fights to save his beloved whilst a motley group
of bystanders try to survive the horrible haunting.
"Last Ghost Standing" was directed by Billy
Chung, who has been responsible for a number of perfectly reasonable genre
films such as "Shiver"
Face, Angel Heart". Here, Chung goes for the tried and tested
approach of bombarding the audience with gags and special effects in a bid
to distract them from the fact that the film has virtually no plot to
speak of. In this, he is generally successful, and the film works well
enough as a series of barely connected set pieces hastily dragged together
for the expected over the top finale.
Chung lifts many of "Last Ghost Standing's"
scenes from other films, often without any effort to disguise his
thievery. For example, we have a long sequence where one character's hand
is possessed, causing it to attack its owner by smashing plates and
bottles over his head, before the owner can saw the runaway hand off at
the wrist. Sound familiar? Actually, the whole plot of "Ghost"
is basically lifted from Lamberto Bava's Italian gore classic, "Demons",
right down to the intruding bunch of streetwise goons (whose number
includes the delectable Pinky Cheung, star of "Devil
To be fair to Chung, he directs with a certain amount
of enthusiasm, if not flair, and although he relies too much on the use of
sped up footage, he does manage a certain amount of atmosphere and energy.
There are a few scenes which boast a weird kind of originality, including
some involving a strange elephant like creature which emerges from a
toilet and chases some reefer fiends. These scenes, whilst not too
frequent, do give the film a boost, and at least some sense of
Of course, films like "Last Ghost Standing"
sink or swim according to how good or bad their jokes are, and fortunately
in this case there are more hits than misses. The humour is strictly of a
sophomoric level, though cheerfully so, and with a manic edge of Hong Kong
zaniness that will endear it to fans of the form. There are some genuinely
funny scenes, including a nice parody of Jackie Chan, complete with
oversized fake nose and dodgy platitudes.
The film is not particularly heavy in the horror or
gore departments, and although there are a good number of creatures on
display, the effects could be charitably described as being of varying
quality. The production budget was obviously quite low, and as a result a
number of the costumes and puppets are laughably bad. However, these are
thrown at the viewer in such a kinetic manner that such shortcomings are
relatively easy to forgive, and if nothing else, they certainly prevent
the film from ever becoming dull. The same is true of the poverty row look
to the sets, costumes, and virtually every aspect of the film, which in
fact add to the shabby charm and endearing feel of the whole affair.
This review may sound like a warning to some viewers,
which is understandable, for "Last Ghost Standing" is a
disposable film with undeniably low ambitions. However, this fact in no
way prevents the movie from being enjoyable, amusing and one of the better
horror comedies from Hong Kong in the last few years.