If you like gory 80s movies like I do, then I have just the thing that’ll spice up your Halloween (no pun intended). Based on the books of kung-fu screenwriter Ni Kuang, The Seventh Curse is a Hong Kong horror action film that’s so batshit crazy that it makes the 2019 White House look like a fucking theme park. And that’s in a good way! So sit back and read up on why, I think, The Seventh Curse is worth your time this Hallows Eve.
But first, we need to give you all some context before we continue. As some of you might know, Ni Kuang is a big deal among the Chinese diaspora. Aside from being a screenwriter on films like Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury and Chang Cheh’s The One-Armed Swordsman, Ni’s also a prolific author who dabbles in sci-fi. His most famous works include the Wisely and Dr. Yuen book series, both of which form the basis for this film. In these books, Wisely and Dr. Yuen are portrayed as bad-ass intellectuals who solve mysteries that feature aliens, time travel and the supernatural. Wisely in particular is so popular that his exploits are retold in various comics, films, radio dramas and TV shows. Now that you have a bit more knowledge about our heroes, let’s get right to the movie.
Mr. Vampire’s Chin Siu-ho plays our protagonist, Dr. Yuen. He’s been afflicted with some whack-ass curse that he got from an archaeology dig in Thailand, where his blood vessels explode every 24 hours (barf). After consulting with Wisely (played by the God of heroes, Chow Yun-fat), Yuen discovers that the explosions are inching closer and closer to his heart, and if the curse isn’t lifted by the seventh rupture (hence the title), then he’s toast! Like, heart bomb toast! Blegh! So, with the help of a plucky reporter (Maggie Cheung), and the noble Thai warrior Helong (Taiwanese stuntman Dick Wei), Dr. Yuen sets off for Thailand to find a cure before it’s too late.
What makes this seemingly straight-forward premise so batshit is that Dr. Yuen has to tangle with the demonic Worm Tribe, led by the evil sorcerer Aquala. Aquala, who practices Thai black magic, is one spooky fucker who not only casts spells and gory curses, but he’s also got a fuck-ton of help under his sleeve. Not only does he have an entire village of warriors at his disposal, but he’s also got some sort of flesh-eating demon baby that is way more terrifying than it sounds. All of these fuckers are under the enthrall of their one true master, a screwed-up skull puppet named the Old Ancestor. At first glance, this Old Ancestor looks like a cross between a dollar store prop and a stiff in your anatomy class, but don’t be fooled! This dude will FUCK YOU UP. He eats people, loves the ladies (barf), and, when he goes Super Saiyan, can turn into a winged demon that’s straight out of a Power Rangers acid trip.
So yeah, the odds are shit for Dr. Yuen and Wisely, but this is a Hong Kong film folks, and that means the bad guys get fucked, with a vengeance. Our heroes punch, kick and shoot their way out of any pickle, giving little regard to form, etiquette, or local customs. I won’t mince words here peeps, The Seventh Curse goes balls-to-the-wall when it comes to the action, and it gets even crazier once things go supernatural. Explosions are plentiful, the fights are righteous and there are stunts where you literally see people getting hit by cars. Guys, there’s so much action that it feels like there’s a kung-fu death chase every 20 minutes. It’s that awesome! And with lots of fake blood to boot, the Seventh Curse gives us the best kind of 80s cheese to revel in for another fantastic Halloween night.
However, don’t go in expecting it all to be rosy viewing. The Seventh Curse, like many other 80s schlock films, can come off as very dated. To be blunt, the movie treats its heroines like shit. Kara Hui, who can beat up ANYONE, is given a crap cameo that makes her look like an idiot! Sibelle Hu, who’s good at kicking ass, is…well, relegated to serving Wisely fucking drinks (and maybe a rocket launcher). Furthermore, Maggie Cheung is mercilessly portrayed as a ditz while Chui Sau-lai, Helong’s fiance, is just there to look hot and helpless while she sacrifices herself for Yuen repeatedly. I mean, what’s the point in having all this female star power if it’s wasted like this?
And last, but not least, The Seventh Curse also has this weird way of depicting rural Thailand as some backwater hell hole ripe for Chinese dudes to do as they please. As a Thai-american, this can get dull rather quickly. It’s especially disappointing since you can clearly see how many Thai extras and stuntmen were used in the making of this film. So yeah, despite the awesome levels of action on display here, The Seventh Curse also has this small shitpile of dated conventions that I personally don’t care for.
Now, The Seventh Curse isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a misfire. Though it riles my sensibilities, I can’t help but be in awe at how insane this film is. I mean, this movie is so chock full of gore, gun-fire and kung-fu that it shouldn’t just be a must for Halloween, but a facepalm time-capsule into how dumb 80s films were when it came to gender and ethnicity. And despite all of this, its still a serviceable horror flick. Though it lacks the chills of Poltergeist or the slow-burn surrealism of The Shining, The Seventh Curse throws a wrench into 80s horror tropes with a literal jump-kick to the head! And let me be clear and say that this is the kind of ‘kick’ that’s wrapped-up in spooky set decoration, stark lighting and practical effects. The kind of ‘kick-to-the-head’ that we 80s horror fans love. But if you’re still on the fence about this one, then let me put it to you this way: If Golden Harvest had a baby with Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, it would fucking look like The Seventh Curse.
See? I figured. Now enjoy your Halloween folks, and watch this damn movie tonight!
GIF credited to VHS-Ninja at https://vhs-ninja.tumblr.com/