Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Black Magic 2 (1976)

An unnamed city in South-East Asia. A series of peculiar, medically inexplicable and really rather horrible illnesses (of course featuring worms and ugly sores) and deaths has confused the world view of physician Shi Zhen Sheng (Lam Wai-Tiu) so much, he's now convinced they are caused by black magic. Shi invites his doctor friend Qi Zhong Ping (Ti Lung) and his wife and partner in science Cui Ling (Tanny Tien Ni) to town, in the hope that the couple can help find a way to break the spells.

Not surprisingly, Qi Zhong and Cui Ling are sceptical concerning their friend's talk of magic and spells; instead of going witch hunting, they prefer to investigate the cases scientifically. These investigations don't lead to any results, though, for Shi Zhen is absolutely right - there is a black magician, a man named Kang Cong (Lo Lieh) in town, using his powers to acquire the two most important things in his life, money and breast milk (which he needs to drink fresh from the breast to keep his youthful appearance despite an age of 80). And now, Kang Cong has decided that Shi Zhen's wife Margarete (Lily Li) looks like an excellent breast milk donor to him. Even after the magician has put a spell on Margarete, causing her to get highly pregnant with an ugly lump of flesh ("It's a freak", Ti Lung diagnoses) in just a few hours, Shi Zhen's friends aren't convinced of the existence of magic.

For that, they propose a test: hire Kang Cong to cast a spell on Cui Ling. Would you believe it's not a very good idea put oneself into the hands of a black magician and that consequently, things go very badly for the people of medicine?

Despite its pioneering status when it comes to Hong Kong horror films, I never cared too much for the first of Meng Hua-Ho's Black Magic movies, perhaps because the gross out one looks for in one's HK horror took place well enough, but it and the weirdness that is the other half of this very special horror sub-genre never found a way to work together all that well there.

That's not something I can say about the sequel (also by Meng Hua-Ho, with the same actor base playing different characters). Black Magic 2 brings the gross-out and the weirdness together in the most pleasantly entertaining ways, at least if you're like me and can find entertainment in things like maggots, and worms and pus and Lo Lieh stealing pubic hair to get at that valuable breast milk; "I needed breast milk" is now my favourite new excuse for doing evil.

If these things don't row your boat, how about Lo Lieh's cellar full of zombies he awakens by hammering big nails into their heads? Ti Lung eating the eyes of a self-declared wise man and consequently getting more manly? Lo Lieh throwing his cat at someone to get some much-coveted blood for evil spell-work from its claws?

Clearly, every sane person reading about these elements of joy will want to run awayout and acquire Black Magic 2 as quickly as possible, but wait, there's more!

Like the fact that the acting ensemble is in a pretty awesome mood, with Lo Lieh having a lot of fun with sneering, making bug eyes, and spitting blood at corpses, Ti Lung being his knightly self, Lily Li undressing and Tanny Tien Ni knowing how to use a hatchet.

And the fact that Meng Hua-Ho directs the whole mess of pus, insects, nudity, bad back projection, and a pulp horror finale (complete with a small army of the undead and a burning house) of the highest degree with a great eye for the pretty; seldom has a close-up of a festering wound full of worms looked this photogenic. Some of the more creatively realized scenes of horror hint at an influence of mid-period Hammer and Italian horror through their careful lighting and the moody photography, giving the quite outrageous (yet not as insane as these films would become in good time) pulp horror story the audience witnesses a veneer of class that stands in delightful contrast to Black Magic 2's highly exploitative nature. Do I love the movie and its director for it? I sure do.


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