This Hong Kong horror-adventure is directed by Lam Ngai Kai (aka Nam Lai Choi, aka Simon Nam) and stars Chow Yun-Fat, Maggie Cheung, Dick Wei and Sibelle Hu.
Adventurer Yuan must return to North Thailand and confront the chief of the Worm Tribe in order to look for the cure to a spell which is slowly killing him. Tagging along with him is pushy reporter Tsai-Hung and, later, his mentor Mr. Wei (Chow Yun-Fat).
After a shoot ’em up/kung fu punch-up/police siege start, the film soon settles down to the proper tale it intends to tell. This means lots of cave sets, guttering torches, masses of mad tribesmen, fighting and slimy monsters.
Though it’s not a fighting-oriented film to the extent that, for instance, WE’RE GOING TO EAT YOU is, THE SEVENTH CURSE does boast very good choreography when a scrap starts.
The wire work is really over the top: whenever someone is kicked, or shot, they fly about a quarter of a mile backwards! In one amazing scene Yuan blasts a guy with his gun at the same time as his partner Heh Lung shoots the same tribesman with an arrow in slow motion.
When Yuan finds out that he needs the stone eyeball from a Buddha statue to prevent the onset of the Seventh Curse that will kill him, it gives the filmmakers a fine excuse to have some neat stunts on top of an impressively large statue. Rope-swinging, saffron-robed assailants, booby traps and crumbling chunks of stone confront our heroes as they ascend the Buddha. The sequence becomes more outrageous once the stone eyeballs have been removed from the statue. Blood spurts from the Buddha’s sockets as the head falls off and rolls after Yuan à la RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK!
The two critters featured in this Far East weird-fest are Old Ancestor and Little Ghost.
Little Ghost is the product of a spell utilising the blood of a hundred children. It has a strange head (resembling the Mekon from the British Eagle comic strip), which is attached to a slimy tail. It also has a pair of little arms. This odd ‘ghost’ is captured with the aid of a pregnant cow’s placenta! This could only happen in a Hong Kong film, eh?
Old Ancestor dwells in his stone coffin in a cave and, when he originally appears, is in the form of a glowing-eyed, clacking-jawed skeleton covered in dry skin. Operated, I assume, as a full-scale marionette, Old Ancestor closely resembles the Japanese skeleton in 1986’s THE GHOST SNATCHERS (also directed by Lam Ngai Kai).
Once it drinks the blood of a victim, Old Ancestor does a bit of transforming, to become a huge beastie with an elongated head. Unlike the really nifty ‘split head’ monster in 1988’s PEACOCK KING (also directed by Lam Ngai Kai), which looked good in both long shots and close-ups, Old Ancestor only really impresses during the close-up shots of the head and hands distorting.
As soon as we see the complete creature, with its webbed wings, the man-in-a-suit monstrosity is reminiscent of a cross between a Mahar from AT THE EARTH’S CORE (1976) and the rubbery Dagoth god-monster from the finale of CONAN THE DESTROYER (1984). In other words… Old Ancestor looks chintzy, but is fun to watch as it whirls about the cavern! The first person we see get killed by Old Ancestor does what probably many victims confronted by a monster would do: he voids his bladder!
Finally, it is left to Chow Yun-Fat to deal with the toothy adversary… by blowing the critter away with a rocket launcher! Way to go Chow!
All in all, THE SEVENTH CURSE is a fine ripping yarn.
(Oh yeah, look out for the action scene where Yuan crashes his jeep through a Worm Tribe hut in slow motion: one unfortunate stuntman fails to get out of the way and is hit! I’m sure it was an accident and was not intended that way, but… ouch!)