(The Vintage Tempest)
Ghost Month is now upon us, and people in South Asia are honouring their ancestors lest they become hungry. The lore about making them happy in this afterlife is just one of at least three traditions that we practise throughout the year. And for those who are looking for a good spooky tale, trying to find something recent isn’t always there. That is, the output has not been the same as those movies set in or close to Chinese New Year.
The classics include Chinese Ghost Story, the Eye, Ju-on and so forth, but they’re too time-honoured to be cool anymore. When going through my collection and scouring the Internet, I offer my top five picks with the tough criteria in what to love from each country. Also, this list is not restricted to just film:
Topping my list is:
Hungry Ghosts (2020)
TV Drama 4x50min
Available on SBSOnDemand
When a powerful amulet is broken on the eve of the Hungry Ghost Festival in Melbourne, a vengeful spirit is unleashed, bringing the dead with him. As they wreak havoc across the Vietnamese Australian community, reclaiming lost loves and repaying old grudges, a young woman who’s never taken responsibility for who she could be, must finally step up and accept her destiny.
The Great Yokai War (2005) & The Great Yokai War: Guardians (2021)
With two movies under this IP’s banner and a manga, the live-action take is very different from previous iterations. GeGeGe no Kitaro had its animated take and its good, but there’s something to seeing the spirits manifest practically which gives the love for all things undead all the more appealing. The series delves into superhero territory and makes for a fun night without having to hide under the sheets later.
The Closet (2020)
In this variation of Poltergeist, this tale has a mix of light-hearted scares and the greatest terror of all, losing a child. Sang-won is told his daughter is missing, and an exorcist says go look in the closet. ’nuff said.
Encounters of the Spooky Kind (1980)
This Hollywood of China never runs out of ideas when it comes to horror, martial arts, and comedy. With Sammo Hung leading the charge, this film is simply flat out funny (sorry Jackie), and he has to fight his way out of being a ghost and get back to the living. That’s tough to do when his wife and lover both want him to stay dead.
The Heirloom (2005)
Perhaps the worst kind of spirit to have lingering around are that of children who never got a chance to grow up. In this film, James Yang (Jason Chang) inherits a huge mansion and although eager to renovate the old plate, what he does has awakened much more. This gothic style tale has elements to like, and technically there’s more mystery than terror to drive this movie when he learns about his family’s past.