Monday, October 10, 2011

Movie Review: Spooky Family

I think I can guess how this Chinese movie got made.  Some producer thought it would be a good idea to cash in on the huge and lucrative Addams Family craze of 1990 (you'll have to stay with me here).  So director Chin Yuet Sang begin his film with a shot of the "Spooky Family" posing together in a recognizable Addams Family style, while the Addams Family theme music played (with one note different, to make it an "original" song!)

The Gweilo's Movie Ratings for Spooky Family
The Chinese movie review continues below this info box!
Category Rating
WTF Meter 4.4 out of 5
MST3K-Ability 4.7 out of 5
OVERALL QUALITY 3.5 out of 5
Chinese Movie Spooky Family
Director Chin Yuet Sang
Actors Kent Cheng, Nina Li Chi, Pauline Wong, Sandra Ng, Billy Lau, Peter Chan Lung
Year 1990
Format Viewed VCD (China Star Entertainment Group, WF50103V)

At this point, about twenty seconds into the movie, the director must have said "Screw this!  The Addams Family is not huge and lucrative, as my stupid producer thinks.  I'm going to make my own movie!"  So, after less than a minute into the film, the director tore up the script and threw out the premise.  The movie struck off entirely on its own...

What follows is an amazing collection of delightfully unconnected nonsense, which finally gels into a semi-coherent Hopping Vampire movie about half way through.
Yeah, let's not do that.
For the first half hour, the movie just spins out entirely random and unconnected plots, sometimes featuring members of the "Spooky Family" and sometimes not.  I like to imagine the director swaggering about, drunk with freedom and high on his new-found rebellion against making an Addams Family knock-off.  I picture him storming around the set screaming "Stop whining about coherence and plot.  You can't tell me how to make a movie!  I'm gonna do what I want!"

So in the first part of the movie, there's scenes of bandits, and army officers with battalions escorting condemned prisoners, and fortune telling, and some guy who eats cigarettes.  Forget about those people and scenarios.  They won't show up later in the movie at all.

We also learn that the family collects hopping vampires, for no apparent reason except that they think hopping vampires are "valuable" somehow.  OK.  And they amuse themselves by doing things like kung fu nose picking with the vampires:
That looks like . . . fun?
They've also invented a machine that lets a human and a vampire swap brains:
I wish I had a machine that looks like this.  Even if it's just a toaster.
Why do they need this machine?  What possible reason could the father have for putting his son in the machine with a vampire?  "You can't tell me how to make a movie!  I'm gonna do what I want!"

But Spooky Family moves on quickly, before this random brain swap becomes any kind of problem.

Eventually, the family learns of a very valuable "Copper Vampire" from East China, so the bumbling father and son team head off into the woods to find it.  They find it immediately, "East China" being quite small, and subdue it after a long protracted nonsensical fight, involving lots of magical post-it notes and "cock blood" and such.

They head home, happy with their new prize.
Gary Busey, you've really let yourself go!
Then we get more haphazard scenarios, like using dirty water as a telephone, awkward family dinners, a "Naughty" family ghost.  Oh, and this:
"My buttocks get itchy, can't you see?"
Imagine auditioning with this line.
Finally, some kind of plot returns near the end of the film.  An evil magician shows up who wants to get his hands on the valuable "Copper Vampire", so we get lots of silly fight scenes.

And here's the biggest payoff, at least from the Gweilo's perspective.

You might think a director storming around screaming "You can't tell me how to make a movie!  I'm gonna do what I want!" would be a bad thing for a movie.  Usually, this is probably so.

But there's something really delightful about the sheer freedom of crazy, drunken, entirely unsupervised movie making.  Sometimes the disconnected silliness strikes a note you've never heard before, and you get brilliant disconnected silliness.

The evil magician is a perfect example of this.  Tons of movies (especially tons of Chinese movies) have evil magicians.  But because this is a "copper" vampire, something clicked together in the director's mind and he decided that the evil magician in this movie should therefore be . . . David Copperfield!

Ok, so he doesn't look much like David Copperfield, and the director probably realized this too.  So he's introduced in the film as "David Copperfield's protégé" instead.

The upshot is, while the "Spooky Family" uses tons of the goofy kung fu magic typical of a Hopping Vampire movie--and this goofy kung fu magic is extremely amusing from the Gweilo's perspective all by itself--the "evil magician" uses a bunch of corny stage-magic tricks, involving scarves and big handkerchiefs and such.  He launches rabbits and pigeons out of his magician's hat at enemies, and conjures goofy looking "magic boxes" straight out of a Vegas magic act to trap his enemies.

Bottom Line of this Chinese Movie Review:  This kind of brilliant, delightful randomness is one of the main reasons I love Hong Kong movies.  Enthusiastically recommended!


  1. Oh man, I've been looking forever for a copy of this! I've tried YesAsia and everything, but still no luck. I'd love to get my hands on a copy.

    1. Ah, you're right. I'm surprised YesAsia doesn't have it. I didn't think it was so rare.

  2. it should b a five out of five its a classic

  3. where can i get this film copy? i like this movie....first time watch that time i was little...make me lough a lot....