Even though I am slightly obsessed with Takashi Miike, my experience with Asian horror has been somewhat limited and often disappointing. I was pleasantly surprised to come across Encounters of the Spooky Kind which was my favorite film of the three mentioned in this post. This film is a near perfect blend of horror, comedy and kung fu--a seriously fun combination. Director Sammo Hung is credited as one of the directors who spearheaded the Hong Kong New Wave genre in the 80's. He also started the vampire-like (more zombie, really) Jiang Shi genre which consists of reanimated corpses that hop (literally) around and cause trouble. Hung also stars in the lead role of Bold Cheung and his performance is brilliant mix of physical comedy and goofball appeal.
In Encounters of the Spooky Kind, Bold Cheung suspects his wife of having an affair but what he doesn't suspect is that the other man is Master Tam , a powerful government official. When Tam is almost caught in Cheung's bed, he decides having Cheung around is too risky and hires a nasty Taoist priest to kill him. Meanwhile the cocky and bold Cheung accepts a bet to spend the night at a temple where he encounters strange, undead creatures and battles the evil magic being thwarted against him at every turn by the men set out to kill him.
Encounters is heavier on the horror elements and comedy than it is on the kung fu but that just made the fight scenes more worth it for me. Though the pace lags in part, stick with it because this highly entertaining, kick-butt-combo of a film has enough laughs and charm to make it a commendable addition to your horror queue.
The Nameless (Los Sin Nombre), directed by Jaume Balagueró, 1999
Ok, I'm no label whore but I feel like Netflix duped me with this pick because it was listed in the foreign horror section and it was really more of a thriller. Even as a thriller, The Nameless just falls apart and can't quite cobble together the interesting bits it has to offer. Clearly, Balagueró can make a good horror film as evident with the successful REC and REC 2, but I think perhaps I chose a film too early in his career to demonstrate his full capabilities.
In The Nameless, Claudia mourns the death of her daughter, Angela, after losing her to a violent murder years before. Abandoned by her husband and plagued by depression, she is shocked when one day she receives a call from a young girl who claims to be Angela. A cop, a journalist and a serial killer all aid her in a cat and mouse chase to find out the truth.
Though the film teases you up until the very end that something absolutely horrific is going to happen, nothing ever really does. Heck, they even refer to all kinds of crazy Nazi evil and other juicy esoteric/occult stuff, but the turnout is so anticlimactic it's disappointing. However, Balagueró does a great job at building suspense and the cast performance is decent. Though the imagery and makings for a great horror/thriller/whatever are there, The Nameless just didn't cut it for me. As recommended by my Horror Squad comrades, I think I'll watch REC & REC 2 next.
Jenifer, directed by Dario Argento, 2006
Jenifer, one of the Masters of Horror episodes, is adapted from a comic written by Bruce Jones and illustrated by Berni Wrightson. While not Dario Argento's finest achievement, is it really fair to compare everything the man does to Suspiria?
In Jenifer, Detective Frank Spivey rescues a mysterious, disfigured woman from certain death and finds himself strangely attracted to her. As Jenifer's behavior becomes more violent and disturbing, Spivey's life spirals out of control but his sex life gets more interesting.
Sure it's predictable, awkward and silly, but I found those qualities somewhat endearing. If you view this as straight up Argento horror, it will fail miserably. But if you take it as is, it will be an entertaining watch.