A turn towards horror
During the 80’s, Shaw Brothers have realized that they could not operate just by releasing scores of kung fu films, and decided to turn towards the horror genre. One of their most successful productions was “Hex”, which even spawned a couple of sequels.
A terrible man leads to a terrible act
Chan Sau-ying is a woman facing terrible issues. She suffers from consumption and Chun-yu, her husband is a despicable man who gambles, drinks and even beats his wife, at least when he is not torturing the servants, who eventually leave the house. Lady Chan is desperate for something that will change her life, and her wish comes true when a young girl named Yi-wah asks to work in the house.
After a series of violent episodes with her husband, the two of them manage to drown him into a large jar and drop his body into a pond. However, Madam Chan feels guilty; a sentiment that becomes even worse, when the police start to investigate the murder, only to discover that there is no dead body in the pond. The story then becomes an amalgam of plot twists and supernatural phenomena.
Hong Kong Horror and exploitation
Kuei Chih – hung directs and pens (with Tan Chin-hua) a film that starts as an Asian variation of the French film “Les Diaboliques”, but eventually becomes a horror film in the distinct Hong Kong style, with exorcism, nudity, a plethora of ghosts attacking the living, and even forced tattoos. Add to that some gore, mainly addressed towards animals, some humor and you have the general frame of the film. The horror element is quite well presented, with many truly agonizing scenes, a sentiment that becomes even more heightened by Eddie Wang’s fitting music.
The exploitation element is not as intense as in CAT III films. However, it is definitely present and chiefly depicted through the almost constant violence towards women, who never seem to stop suffering. The nudity presented in the last part, also moves towards the same direction.
The usual nonsensicality in the script associated with most Shaw Brothers’ productions is also here. Nevertheless, it seems to fit the general aesthetics and is not bothersome at all.
Making the most out of a low-budget
“Hex” is obviously low-budgeted and this is quite visible in the special effects, which occasionally look amateurish. However, the other technical departments retain quite a high standard. In that fashion, the interior of the house is impressive (as usual in Shaw Brothers’ productions), Li Hsin-yeh’s cinematography is above average and Kuang Hsu-ping has done a wonderful job with the sound. A clear sample of this prowess is the scene of the drowning, which occurs under heavy rain, in one of the most impressive sequences of the film. In that aspect, 88 Films have done a wonderful job restoring the picture to HD, while retaining the original sound.
Fitting acting and a star
The acting is on a good level, considering the nature of the movie. Wang Yung is quite persuasive as a true bastard, and Chen Szu-chia presents adequately both of Yi-wah’s sides. The definite star of the film, however, is Tien Ni as Chan Sau-ying, who is impressive in a number of different roles and statuses, not to mention gorgeous.
Despite the evident nonsensicality, the general pace, and some preposterous special effects that somehow manage to work, “Hex” makes for a highly entertaining film.
88 Films offers “Hex” in an impressive Blu-Ray + DVD combo pack. The edition includes a reversible sleeve featuring Cinema Poster Artwork and a limited edition booklet by Dr Callum Waddell, available for the first 2000 copies. The discs are region B/2, the picture format is HD 1080p 2.35:1 / PAL 2.35:1 and the sound LPCM Mono and Dolby Digital Mono. The edition features English subtitles and Chinese language.
The extras include two features by renowned Hong Kong cinema expert Bey Logan: “The Studio that Conquered a Continent – An Introduction to the Shaw Bros” and “Hong Kong Movie Language.” A trailer is also included.
Overall, the release is impressive, and since it is the only edition of the film in HD, a must-have for every fan of this Shaw Brothers’ horror classic.