Evil Cat (1986)

Produced & directed by: Dennis Yu
Written by: Wong Jing
Starring: Lau Kar-Leung, Mark Cheng, Joann Tang, Stuart Ong & Wong Jing

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HK Flix.com

An evil spirit cat turns up in present Hong Kong and it possesses people in order to hide it's true physical form. Only Cheung (Lau Kar-Leung from Drunken Master II), who is dying of cancer, knows how to stop it and into this mission he brings unwilling chauffeur Long (Mark Cheng from Peking Opera Blues). They only have 7 days to stop the cat though and after that it will become immortal and even more powerful...

It's a good thing that Hong Kong movies are cheap because chances are that I would never have picked this movie up otherwise. Not that it's a masterpiece (far from it actually) but it's a fun movie to have on a few levels. Dennis Yu didn't direct many movies but worth acknowledging out of his efforts is the horror movie The Imp from 1981 starring Kent Cheng. I don't know if he necessarily felt at home in the horror genre but he did do three movies leaning towards that genre. After my viewing of Evil Cat I feel that Dennis didn't want to make his mark as a visual director but more of a straightforward one.

From the very freaky coloured opening title sequence (and accompanied by equally freaky sounds), Dennis throws the audience right smack into the story, which is necessary for a short film like this one. Some of the movies technical aspects also immediately show themselves here, namely cinematography, music and special effects. The optical effects pretty much is on the same level that Hong Kong movies were at that time. It's animated and painted on which of course isn't all that well integrated but it works for a Hong Kong movie of this era. Computer generated imagery didn't really get used extensively until Stormriders came along so the effects teams really pushed the limit of what little they could do for a long time. What that resulted in was crude effects but at the same time they were quite fun and charming in the way they were executed. That latter statement definitely can be applied to to the work in Evil Cat.

After the plot and our main characters get their exposition the pace sadly slows down a bit and Wong Jing's script takes over. Wong Jing is of course a well known producer and director of both cheesy movies and more classy work like the first God Of Gamblers movie for example. His type of humour can be both quite fun in a shameless way but at times so tiring and forced til the point you just want to throw up. In this movie maybe the humour was a bit more Cantonese so to say but much of the dialogue, in between the action moments, was really flat, especially in the scenes Wong Jing himself appears in. The horrible subtitling job didn't help either but more on that below. Eventually we get to see what saves this movie from going in the bin, namely the cat scenes! For most of the time we him inside his possessed victims which makes a few scenes quite fun. The first victim is Stuart Ong (from Hong Kong 1941) and he really shows the audience that he's having fun while displaying his best cat behaviour. These scenes, that often also include Lau Kar-Leung somewhere, is not really choreographed as such but do contain some decent stunt- and wirework combined with some moderate tension and excitement. They could also be used as a demo reel to show your friends what Hong Kong movies sometimes are like.

Dennis Yu's directing throughout is averagely paced and not the most technically inspired. It is a horror-comedy but the horror isn't all that horrific (compared to Haunted Cop Shop which was tense in parts). The movie is already quite absurd so scaring the audience was perhaps not something Dennis primarily aimed for. It was also not a whole lot of money invested in the project so all of the areas were probably not fine tuned all the way through the shooting. All in all the directing works and isn't very intrusive but didn't elevate the movie to any high level. DP Arthur Wong's work on this movie sadly isn't all that exciting either. Arthur has proven that he can tackle most movies regardless of genre but here the photography is very reminiscent of so many other productions at the time. Also on the composing side of things we find Law Wing-Fai (who was awarded the HKFA for his work on Dream Lovers) and his music isn't all that noticeable but instead he chooses to use a lot of weird and very shrill sounds in certain action scenes. I guess it fits in it's own way but it was not a pleasant sound experience.

Acting wise there really isn't much to say as you've probably guessed. Legendary director Lau Kar-Leung gives the movie some status by just being in it plus the fact that we get a short fight scene involving him as well. Otherwise he plays his role fairly convincing but doesn't really look that thrilled to be in the movie to be honest. Mark Cheng on the other hand is downright awful as Cheung's student and the supposed hero. He has zero presence and charisma and in a role like his, we need just a little of that at least. Wong Jing turns up far too many times as a very unfunny and un-macho cop but Stuart Ong is fun to watch in his brief role as one of the cat's victims.

As mentioned, what helps Evil Cat is the more intense sequences and the climax of the movie is quite entertaining. The level of gore rises, more hokey special effects are inserted and a typical, not very logical, plot twist is thrown in towards the end. Have to mention my and probably many people's favourite scene in the movie is the possession by the cat of a female victim. Guess where he chooses to enter her body? Only in Hong Kong, although a similar scene is in the first Evil Dead movie.

Evil Cat is almost a good bad movie. We're treated to some of the things that made 80s Hong Kong productions charming and a few nuggets of good entertainment here and there. If you find it cheap somewhere it could be fun to have in your collection.

The DVD:

Megastar's new dvd is framed at 1.85:1 and looks ok like many other releases. There is print damage on many occasions like specks and lines through the print but other parts look fairly clean. The picture has nice colours during night scenes but is rather soft looking throughout.

The only audio option is a Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 remix. Lately Megastar titles have shown restraint in these remixes and same thing goes for this dvd. It sounds mono pretty much all the time except for some music going out to the left and right speakers.

The English subtitles are removable but a LOT of the time you'll be puzzled as to what is going on in the movie. It seems like they're lifted from the original cinema print and therefore quite bad in terms of sentence structure and grammar. Luckily there isn't much plot to follow so you're not completely lost. Japanese, Korean, traditional Chinese and simplified Chinese subtitles are also available.

As usual Megastar doesn't give us any extras of value. There's a plot synopsis, cast & crew listing (with a biography of Mark Cheng only) and trailers for Evil Cat, Haunted Cop Shop and Vampire vs Vampire.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson