The Eternal Evil Of Asia (1995)

Directed by Cash Chin Man Kei

Starring Ellen Chan Nga Lun, Lily Chung Suk Wai, Chan Kwok Bon, Ben Ng Ngai Cheung, Elvis Tsui Kam Kong, Bobby Au Yeung Chun Wah, Ng Shui Ting, Chin Kwan, Julie Lee Wah Yuet, Yuen King Tan, Lo Meng, Bobby Yip Kin Sang

The Eternal Evil Of Asia (1995)

Film Review

The South East Asian black magic thriller is a sub-genre of Hong Kong cinema almost as intrinsically unique as that territory's cycle of 'gambling' films. First divined upon international audiences (although it had been around a lot longer) with Keith Li Pak Ling's "Centipede Horror" (1982), an enjoyably grotesque Malaysian-grounded shocker, the sub-genre has been a staple of Hong Kong horror for years, even seeing a mighty resurgence in recent years on the back of the success of Hideo Nakata's Japanese thriller "Ring" (1998) at the SAR's box office. But it was during the mid-nineties where the sub-genre collided spectacularly with Hong Kong's Category III classified (adult) output under the deft hand of fledgling director Cash Chin, producing one of the best of the cycle, "The Eternal Evil Of Asia" (1995). What "Eternal Evil" lacks in budget, it certainly makes up for in visual stylisation, gory excess, and jaw-dropping mise-en-scene.

Opening on seemingly unassuming family man Nam (Au Yeung), Chin's film waste no time dropping its viewer in the thick of the action. Troubled by the passing of his parents, and somewhat ill at ease with his wife and son, Nam is assailed by an unseen ghostly force that deceives him into murdering his family, then claiming his own life. This shocking action submerges his friends Bon (Chan), Kent (Ng) and Kong (Tsui) under a daunting veil of tantamount fear. Concerned by her fiancée, Bon's, uneasy disposition since his return from a group trip to Thailand, May (Ellen Chan) determines to uncover what has so disturbed the quartet of friends. A visit by regular client (and secretive Thai witch) Mei (Chung) to her hairdressing salon reveals darker forces at work, eventuating Bon's guilty conscience to spill the beans. Whilst in Thailand, the four friends befriended local sorcerer Laimi (Ng), with Bon capturing the heart of his sister Shui-Mei (Chin). When a 'love hex' gone wrong accidentally claims Shui-Mei's life, the friends flee in terror back to Hong Kong, only set in motion the lust for revenge from the wronged sorcerer. And Laimi will not rest until every last man lies dead, and May has submitted to him as his eternal sex-slave by way of compensation for his sister's soul!

Cash Chin's delightfully amazing film may not be to everyone's taste, but it sure knows how to deliver in true Category III fashion. Outlandish gore is tempered with a ravishing display of naked Asian finery, and from the giddily gruesome murders that open the film to the outrageously audacious finale, it never fails to entertain. Not once. Ellen Chan is so drop-dead gorgeous in this one, the viewer is barely afforded the chance to evaluate her performance. A great pity that this has gone on to become her virtual final bow from the big screen. Cat III stalwart Elvis Tsui pops up in an amusing cameo as Chan's brother, giving the film its signature sight gag when his smart mouth sees his head transformed into a penile glans! That description alone should key you into exactly the direction this production aims for, and once it's firing on all cylinders the outrageous demeanour never lets up. Graphic cleaver mayhem, cannibalism, pet ghosts, gratuitous nudity, group sex, airborne sex, and a wildly impressive climactic sexual encounter between Chan and the invisible Ng, are just some of the stops along the way in Chin's journey to deliver an all round crowd-pleaser.

Wan Ho Kit's original score is a hyperactive amalgam of breathy female vocalists, camp soft-porn saxophone, horror synth-riffs, and pounding rock stylings, that although eclectic, works marvelously well against the visuals. Of which, Tony Miu King Fai's cinematography is something quite wondrous amongst the genre, generating an impressive visual edge through a myriad of techniques, taking in every trick from askew angles and grainy black & white to accelerated images and neon-drenched sets. Art Director Andrew Cheuk Man Yiu gives the film an expansive scale on a limited budget, and veteran Action Choreography Deon Lam Dik On augments the mayhem with his unique screen vision. Overall, it's a tightly paced, rude and raucous hour and a half of sex and gore cinema that Hong Kong has gone on to become renowned for. Chin's film holds few peers in its genre, still standing as a bonafide all round show-stopper of wildly excessive adult entertainment. If you find the film a little lacking in its build-up, then Ellen's final few minutes of screen-time will definitely leave your jaw on the floor, of that you can be assured. An engagingly entertaining Cat III classic!

Disc Review

Prior to Mei Ah's DVD release, there had only been a Mandarin language only edition of "Eternal Evil" available from Taiwan on the Ritek label. So, how does Mei Ah's disc fair offset against their scattershot quality performance? Surprisingly well, actually, bar one MAJOR issue that shall be unveiled very shortly. A bare-bones release (ie: no extras whatsoever), the film is at last letterboxed at a screen ratio of approximately 1.78, and that's as close to the theatrical framing of 1.85 that I think we're ever going to see. The print is relatively clean, only exhibiting a handful of speckles and minor damage. Colours are fairly vibrant, the image relatively crisp for the majority (although a tad soft in a few passages), but black levels are reasonably poor and shadow detail rather indistinct. The print has not been completely remastered for this transfer, and thus the subtitles are a retention of the theatrical Chinese & English burned-in variety. Audio is available in Dolby 2.1 mono in either Cantonese (original audio) or Mandarin (dubbed), and is exceptionally clean, if not slightly lower than is normal (nothing that cranking the amp won't rectify!). All up it's a pretty damn fine representation of one of my favourite Cat III films (even if the de-rigeur Mei Ah digital 'cheese-cloth' grain is visible on occasions).

My only MAJOR gripe I have is that, although Mei Ah have finally made the damn thing available on DVD at an affordable price and by its origins is now extremely easy to source, the print that this transfer has been lifted from has been censored! Before you all hit the panic buttons, all of the gore is still present, as is Ms. Chan's extremely explicit climactic sequence, but a couple of sequences featuring full frontal nudity from supporting actress Chin Kwan have been truncated so as to remove virtually all glimpses of pubic hair! The three or four moments are noticeable by the obvious skips in the audio & image, and maddeningly frustrating by their exclusion as they were all present in the theatrical print (the most obvious being a lingering, deliberately slow pan down Chin's body in extreme close-up that cuts the moment it reaches the bottom of her rib-cage) & the TVB video variant. If you can (grumble) live without (the once completely) gratuitous shots of Chin's 'map of Tasmania' and a hint of pink, then Mei Ah's disc release is well worth the small price you'll pay for it. As it contains a couple of brief, though rough, rape scenes I can't see it being released uncut anywhere else in the immediate future!

Review by Mike Thomason

Released by Mei Ah Laserdisc Co. (Multimedia Division)
Category III - Region 0 (NTSC)
Running time - 89m
Ratio - Widescreen 1.77
Audio - Dolby digital 2.1 mono
Extras :

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