Horror Fu: 1980s

by Michael Lauck on October 8, 2012 · 3 comments in Buddhist Blog

For the fan of martial arts movies, the 1980s offers several great horror films. The decade kicked off with Sammo Hung’s comedy/horror film Spooky Encounters, also called (Close) Encounters of a Spooky Kind. Co-written and directed by Sammo, this film is fairly easy to find on DVD and used copies are usually affordable. Several kung fu movie documentaries have featured scenes of Sammo’s battles against the denizens of a haunted house from Spooky Encounters although I have seen them often mis-attributed to movies such as Zu. A few years later Sammo wrote, directed and appeared in another comedy horror film called Spooky, Spooky which is kind of hard to find in the US. In addition to these films Sammo produced Mr. Vampire, the first in one of the most famous and enduring horror comedy series to come out of Hong Kong studios. While not exactly terrifying, there is something terribly entertaining about all those hopping undead corpses in their old school government minister robes. Tsui Hark also threw his hat into the comedy horror ring with A Chinese Ghost Story, which went on to inspire sequels, rip-offs, a remake and I think even an anime series!

To be honest, none of these movies is terribly scary as horror movies go. They really are not very far removed from fantasy films such as Zu: Warriors From The Magic Mountain or Big Trouble in Little China. They are not anything like the slasher movies that seemed to dominate the 1980s horror scene in the United States or the Japanese Guinea Pig series (which were so realistic they were actually investigated as real snuff films). Not all of the 1980s martial arts/horror hybrids are comedies, though. Like so often in life, Chuck Norris comes to the rescue.

What? You say. Chuck Norris? Yup. Chuck Norris made his first foray into horror movies in 1982 with Silent Rage. What happens when amoral genetic engineers turn an insane serial killer into an unstoppable, invulnerable killing machine? Chuck Norris has to come kick the living crap out of him, of course. Silent Rage is an often overlooked movie; like Firewalker it was lost among more traditional martial arts/action movies such as The Octagon, Lone Wolf McQuade and Delta Force. Halloween is the perfect excuse to dig up a copy and enjoy it. And yeah, I said this was the FIRST of Chuck’s horror movies… more on that next week.

As awesome as Chuck Norris is, and hey, he has the meme to prove it, Silent Rage is not this week’s top pick. The Shaw Brothers were kicking out some seriously disturbing horror offerings, particularly in the early 1980s. Unfortunately many, such as Bloody Parrot, are hard to find. Luckily, a quick Amazon search reveals that classics like Seeding of a Ghost (Norman Chu and Phillip Ko) and Boxer’s Omen (with fan favorite Bolo Yeung) are available in the US. Both are worth watching, particularly for fans of films such as Black Magic. Still, neither quite earn this week’s top recommendation. For my money the 1980s movie that best combines martial arts and horror is (of course) Human Lanterns. Why? It’s a Shaw Brothers flick featuring your favorites form the Venoms films and a deranged maniac skinning the local beauties for his own depraved purposes. What could possibly be better? How about the fact that Amazon carries the Region 1 DVD (sorry, no Blu-Ray) for less than $12!

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Danny October 24, 2012

I had no idea that such a genre existed! I was actually doing Kung Fu searches because of the new RZA film coming out, and I’m delighted that I just happened upon this post. I knew that my Blockbuster @Home offered a wide variety of movies, but I was still surprised to find that I could add all the movies you’ve mentioned onto my queue. I had a harder time finding Bloody Parrot, but I’ve added all the others. I have a horror film club with several of my co-workers at DISH, and we get together to watch scary movies every other week, and then talk about them. I think they will be tickled to watch a few of these!

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Michael L. October 28, 2012

There are actually many more movies like this from Asia but I tried to stick with stuff that was easy to find! I’m glad you liked the article; if you check the Forums you can stream the latest episodes of Flying DVDs Of Death; we talked at length about Black Magic last week and will cover another Asian horror flick on Halloween!

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Danny October 31, 2012

Thanks for the invite! I’ll be sure to pass this on.

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