With the Venoms, in ShawScope, of course!
Chang Cheh was well known as being a maverick in the Hong Kong film industry, often referred to as the Godfather of Hong Kong cinema, his prolific output launching the careers of many stars and directors as well as enhancing the balletic bloodshed genre that brought not just John Woo to the world but also the trio of Sammo Hung, Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao in their first film together. Nine Demons is a film which, with his great entourage the Five Venoms, mixes spirituality, elements from the Chinese ghost story and the kung fu/swordplay acrobatic delights which defined an era that is very much missed: this is a film where the action is filmed in-camera and performed with synchronised gusto.
So our hero, such as he is, Zou Qi (Tien-Chi Cheng) has a tragic start to to the film when virtually everyone he knows or is related to is brutally slaughtered and his home of Gan manor destroyed. Only his best friend survives. Thanks to his youthful prowess Zou Qi has also used his formidable acrobatic and climbing skills to escape but as good, or bad, luck would have it he finds himself in a Asura’s demonic underground palace. He is given the opportunity, Faust style, for his soul to have the ability to wreak extreme vengeance on the perpetrators of his familial slaughter. The price to realise these new powers, requires that he has to demand the possession of the nine demons, whose corporeal form is contained within nine miniature skulls which he dons, unleashing them to quench their ravenous thirst for human blood. So his quest for savage vengeance commences with the inevitability of a bloody outcome for all and sundry.
The Nine Demons is an energetic kung fu romp with so much to enjoy. When Zou Qi undergoes his demonic personality changes he dons a distinctive devilish tiara, colourful costume and large cape, together with outrageously camp make-up and distinctive eyeshadow. The demons themselves are launched as their nine skulls in circular form amidst strobing rainbow lighting before manifesting themselves in their demonic form, eight blood hungry children quenching their thirst on the bodies of victims and the adult succubus gorging on any remaining gore, before transforming back to their skull incarnations, sated temporarily until their thirst demands further blood. So far, so camp horror with diabolical clothing to match the diabolical demons, but there’s more. Being a Five Venoms kung-fu film by Chang Che there is also plenty of action on show, wonderfully choreographed and skilfully edited to give genuinely pacey and acrobatic action. So kung-fu, demons, bloodsucking action and camp costuming combine to make a delicious guilty pleasure.
Extras include the 4:3 dubbed VHS English version and a fascinating interview with Yu Tai Ping where he admires the skills of the fighters involved and also admits his own problems coping with only speaking Mandarin whilst working on a Cantonese film.