This year’s cinematic celebration of Halloween has already transported me to Italy and Japan, so it felt appropriate to take advantage of Metrograph’s screening of Bewitched in order to experience some good, old fashioned Chinese horror.
As it turns out, this 1981 Shaw Bros. production (not to be confused with the 1960s television sitcom that starred a couple of Dicks) has a lot in common with its Western brethren. The plot revolves around a philandering Hong Kong tourist’s life unraveling under the influence of a powerful curse after he disrespects the wrong Thai woman—a variation on the classic theme of modern rationality and skepticism underestimating so-called “superstition.” Sadly, the inherent potential of this premise is often squandered on exploitative titillation rather than mood or atmosphere, but the film eventually won me over once its more overtly supernatural and spiritual elements emerged; the spectacular, show-stopping metaphysical duel between a Buddhist high priest and a dark magician was especially entertaining. If nothing else, it was worth watching for the novelty of seeing a non-martial arts movie from the studio that practically reinvented the genre.
[Originally written October 21, 2018.]