The Spooky Bunch

dir. Ann Hui

TIFF Cinematheque - Retrospective

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A low-rent Cantonese opera troupe is beset by a gang of vengeance-seeking ghosts in this wildly inventive horror-comedy by Hong Kong New Wave icon Ann Hui.

Virtually unclassifiable, The Spooky Bunch is a horror-comedy that oscillates wildly between vaudevillian slapstick and tragic political drama. A low-rent Cantonese opera troupe is lured to the remote island of Cheung Chau by the wealthy Mr. Ma, who wants his playboy nephew Dick (Kenny Bee) to marry bit-part player Ah Chi (the sublime and hilarious Josephine Siao Fong-fong, who went on the become one of Hong Kong cinema's biggest stars) in order to lift a curse he believes Ah Chi's grandfather put on his family. As the troupe rehearses, they are assailed by a playful spirit called Cat Shit, whose appearance heralds the arrival of a host of murderous ghosts out for vengeance against the families of Dick and Ah Chi for long-ago betrayals, both personal and political. Possessions, kooky dances, and some particularly gruesome murders follow in quick succession, as the ghosts hijack the production and force the put-upon (and quite terrible) actors to perform classic Chinese dramas that reveal the true stories of what happened during the terrible times of war and conflict. Directed by Hong Kong New Wave master Ann Hui, The Spooky Bunch is both a delightful entertainment and a complex, sophisticated and multi-layered metacinematic genre experiment, as Hui fuses the traditions of Cantonese opera with the idioms of contemporary Hong Kong popular film. There is simply nothing quite like it.