Haunted Mansion (1998)

Ghost girl prepares to stick her hand through the heroine's body!
Ghost girl prepares to stick her hand through the heroine’s body!

This Hong Kong horror flick was directed (and written) by Dickson To, stars Gigi Lai, Anthony Wong, Shirley Cheung and Law Lan, and was produced by Wong Jing.

Ghost girl!
Spirit child!

Journalist Gigi (Lai) goes back to her family home in Hong Kong’s Yuen Long District with her cop husband Fai (Wong), to help her mom (Lan) and sister (Cheung) deal with various problems, including hauntings and several attempted acts of sabotage perpetrated by lowlifes working for Mr Chin, a shady businessman.

What is the origin of this wraith-child?
What is the origin of this wraith-child?

Starting out promisingly with a dead dog being strung up outside the mom’s home and a guy getting transfixed by a television aerial, the movie unfortunately soon becomes a rather pedestrian, underachieving affair, lacking suspense or any sense of dread. The plot seems content to plod along with scenes of Gigi and Fai’s easy-going, unexceptional marital life, interspersed with the occasional glimpse of a creepy kid or similar underwhelming incident.

One of Mr Chin's hired goons gets skewered on a TV aerial
One of Mr Chin’s hired goons gets skewered on a TV aerial
Gigi Lai plays Gigi
Gigi Lai plays Gigi

Gigi becomes increasingly concerned about what is happening at the family home and is given various snippets of advice and pearls of occult wisdom by one of her work colleagues, Uncle Ming, which includes his theory that the weird phone calls she’s been getting in the middle of the night are from ghosts that are ‘on the same frequency’ as Gigi.

Pimple-faced spirit-dude
Blue-lit, pimple-faced spirit-dude

Events become stranger when Fai’s soul is trapped in an endless Mahjong game and the ghostly young girl becomes more of an ongoing presence at the property. Gigi, with the help of Uncle Ming, eventually gets to the bottom of what is happening, after her mute mom’s soul is released from her body (thanks to the application of electricity!) so that she can explain everything. The mother’s soul reminds Gigi that she’d had an abortion several years earlier… and the spectral girl is actually her unborn daughter’s spirit, which is causing Fai and Gigi’s sister Fen to become possessed by other ghosts.

DVD cover
DVD cover

Gigi allows the ghostly girl to stick her hand right through her body, but this doesn’t happen in reality, and Gigi’s willingness to sacrifice herself placates her aborted daughter’s angry spirit. Now Gigi teams-up with her wraith daughter in an attempt to extricate Fai’s soul from the ongoing ghostly Mahjong game…

Gigi allows the ghost of her unborn daughter to shove her hand into her belly…
…and the girl spirit’s hand splats out of Gigi’s back!

HAUNTED MANSION does improve towards the end, but it suffers overall from poor plotting choices, including sidelining Anthony Wong’s interesting, slightly loutish & clumsy character for a large chunk of the second half of the movie, and never explaining the reason why Mr Chin, the businessman villain, is so desperate to get hold of the property that he’s willing to kill for it. There’s a jarring shift in tone, too, when the film momentarily veers into Cat III territory, as Mr Chin’s wife gets stripped and assaulted in their office by an unseen entity. Chin is then attacked and strangled by the possessed wife, leaving his whole subplot hanging.

A couple of the paper cut-out figures from the mansion's shrine move about somehow...
A couple of the paper cut-out figures from the mansion’s shrine move about somehow…

A decent moment involves the blue-lit, long-nailed ghost girl jumping onto the back of one of Mr Chin’s minions when he attempts to burn down the house, plus there are a couple of scenes featuring cut-out figurines from the mansion’s elaborate shrine that seem to move around of their own volition, though this cool concept is soon forgotten, which is a shame, as they added a novel visual aspect to the story.

The girl-spectre rides on the back of the would-be arsonist!
The girl-spectre rides on the back of the would-be arsonist!

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