One of the Shaw Brothers’ most infamous and sleazy shockers finally gets the rerelease it deserves…
The crowning ghoulish jewel in the recent wave of Shaw Brothers horror releases is undoubtedly the notorious, long sought after Seeding of a Ghost. Directed by Richard Yeung Kuen (who also gave genre fans Hell Has No Boundary, a self-styled ‘exercise in eradication’) back in 1983, the film has garnered a reputation for being one of the most outrageous ever produced by the studio. Now, after being frustratingly unavailable for far too long, intrepid viewers who wish to travel into the darkest and indeed messiest recesses of the human soul can finally judge for themselves.
The film starts as taxi driver Chow (Philip Ko, also in The Boxer’s Omen) almost hits a rather shabby looking man being chased from a graveyard by an angry mob. His passenger claims to be a black wizard, promising poor Chow that he will soon suffer great misfortune as a result of their meeting. This certainly turns out to be the case, as his wife Irene (Maria Jo) promptly begins a torrid affair with Fong (Norman Tsui, also in a number of other studio productions including Shaolin Abbot), one of the regulars at the gambling den where she works – resulting in a nice montage of romantic scenes including slow motion nude beach running and sex with ridiculously fan blown hair. Matters get even worse when Irene is raped and killed by a couple of thugs, and after Chow fails to get justice either from the incompetent police or by handing it out himself, he decides to pay a visit to his old black magic pal. Although he does promise dire consequences, the sorcerer agrees to help, casting the ‘seeding of a ghost’ spell, which is so powerful that it blows the lid off Irene’s coffin. Her understandably angry spirit subsequently embarks on a particularly nasty campaign of vengeance, attacking not only those who wronged her, but their families as well.
Without wishing to spoil too many of the gruesome surprises in store, it’s fair to say that Seeding of a Ghost pretty much has it all, from grave robbing, corpse kissing, worm vomiting, and brain eating through to the decidedly inappropriate use of an oversized matchstick. However, such delights pale in comparison to the frankly insane final bloodbath, which is worth the price of admission on its own, and which is a guaranteed eye opener even for the most jaded fan of the black magic subgenre. Most of the spells cast in the film seem to require nudity, and it’s fair to say that most of the female cast members give very game performances under the circumstances. Whilst all of this is good, unclean fun, the film has a mean streak several miles wide, and is misogynistic from the start, with the rape and murder of Irene being particularly brutal. Once the titular spell is cast, things degenerate even further, with lots of perverse scenes, including incest, as the ghost possesses a woman and tries to seduce her understandably reluctant young man, and a crazed and just plain wrong sequence in which a putrefied corpse has mid-air sex with an animated spirit – surely some kind of first. Of course, for some viewers such scenes are the very reason for watching, and for those with strong stomachs and a certain moral flexibility, the film certainly delivers the goods in spades, perhaps even more so than the immortal The Boxer’s Omen – though all others, be warned.
Matters are not helped by the fact that this is a shockingly amoral film, with no clear-cut hero, or even any sympathetic characters. As such, the revenge plot is little more than a convenient excuse for carnage, and it’s hard to care who will eventually end up on top. Still, this is hardly a problem, as the film works brilliantly as an exercise in grotesque excess, and Yeung Kuen’s willingness to bump off cast members at the drop of a hat does make the proceedings rather unpredictable.
What raises Seeding of a Ghost above being a mere exploitation howler is the fact that it is actually well made, with Yeung Kuen proving himself to be a more than capable genre director. It benefits from a genuinely creepy look, with plenty of atmospheric mist, decaying mansions and overgrown graveyards, all bathed in some impressively sinister lighting effects and accompanied by a nerve-jangling synthesizer score. The film also features some good and imaginative camera work throughout, including one incredible shot which follows a man as he plunges to his death from a rooftop. As a result, it enjoys a far more dynamic feel than some of its peers, which tend to be on the static and creaky side.
Whilst technical competency is probably the last thing on the minds of the kind of viewers likely to be excited about Seeding of a Ghost, it does actually make quite a difference as such craftsmanship goes some way to making all the nastiness even nastier. Well worth the wait and fully deserving of its infamy, the film is amongst the very best of its kind, and is an absolute must see, not only for fans of the Shaw Brothers’ brand of gross out horror, but for anyone brave enough to venture into the wild world of extreme exploitation cinema in general.
The Seeding Of A Ghost is available on UK Dual Format (Blu-ray & DVD) from 88 Films, featuring an audio commentary by Bey Logan and a featurette on Hong Kong horror by Calum Waddell.
A version of his review was previously published on BeyondHollywood.com.