Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Day #12 unleashes the Centipede Spell on your ass!

We travel to South East Asia for this gooey and nasty all you can eat treat!

CENTIPEDE HORROR (1984 credited release but actually made in the mid to late 1970's)

I've been enjoying taking in some early 80's Chinese splatter cinema lately. I watched THE DEVIL a few weeks ago, probably the top of the line of these low budget nasties, and finally got around to looking at CENTIPEDE HORROR after all these years. And it's a truly nasty, creepy crawly piece of work! I quite enjoyed it and must say that there were moments in this one that made even me feel uneasy. Whoever got the bright idea of using centipedes as the main creature of destruction in this flick deserves a prize. They bring up some sort of primeval feeling of dread and unease I can't quite verbalize, but when you see those suckers moving you can almost feel it moving up your back. When you see hundreds of them scurrying to crawl over some poor bastard, you can't help but become paranoid they are all over your own floor. looking to make you the next meal on the menu!
The story here deals with a young man named Pak Lei who foolishly allows his younger sister to go to South East China on a vacation. Seems that their grandfather had forbade the entire family to ever set foot there for any reason, but since he has no longer around, the young people thought it was no big deal. Pak Lei made his sister where a medallion that was passed down from their grandfather for spiritual protection and good luck. Unfortunately, it's that very medallion that gets her ass into trouble. A street vendor spots it around her neck and puts a curse on her, causing her to be attacked in the woods by a swarm of centipedes who bite her mercilessly. Her very cute friend sees the carnage, has a heart attack, and dies on the spot.This little cutie sees these creepy-crawlies and has a heart attack and DIES!!!

Pak lei goes to his sister's aid in S.E. China when the doctors cannot figure out what disease she is suffering from, and gets there just in time to see her die from her suppurating pustules and spreading wounds. His old girlfriend from college (played by Margeret Li) assists him in finding some answers, first talking to an ointment salesman they call the King of Centipedes, since his elixirs are made of the little beasties. He helps lead them to various old school local magicians and sorcerers who deal in the black arts, and they uncover various curses and dirty secrets, going back to a very evil deed performed by their grandfather. Turns out that the medallion allowed the wronged man to know that these kids were descendants of the man who destroyed his life, and now that he's a master sorcerer, he intends to take it all out on them in the here and now, using the worst kind of magic in the world: the dreaded centipede spell.

This movie comes from a very small sub-genre of Chinese horror, where the special effects were cheap and nasty and required the actors to do things no western movie would ever ask. In these films, the actors gobble up various insects and/or vermin and vomit them up on cue to represent the effects of the magic on hand. In the case of CENTIPEDE HORROR, various people puke and projectile vomit five and six inch-long live and squirming centipedes at will. Dozens of the damn things. Not only that, but let hundreds of the multi-legged little fuckers run rampant all over their bodies while pretending (or maybe not) to be bitten to death! In other films of this genre, such as THE DEVIL or CALAMITY OF SNAKES, they puke up worms, maggots, snakes, or lizards! In LEWD LIZARD you don't even want to know what orifice the lizard finds its way into!

It all makes for very uncomfortable and effective viewing. You simply cannot remain unaffected when watching this footage. Yeah, the film's a geek show, but it's also so nasty and vile that it's horrific, and also does the job of being pretty terrifying. As the movie progresses, various other people become possessed by the centipede spells and a battle of sorcerers occurs to combat this. This is when the movie really cranks up, becoming even more outrageous, if that's possible, with the new sorcerers doing things like having enslaved child ghosts become smoke to crawl into a woman's vagina and run out the evil spirit (she then vomits out scorpions!), or another sorcerer who raises dead chickens to send into battle against the centipedes. Hell, a cobra even becomes involved at one point!
You'd be screaming too if your belly was full of scorpians and a ghost just crawled into your vagina!

But even weirder is how the movie steals music from Paul Schrader's 1982 remake of CAT PEOPLE, the theme of which is repeated several times here, as well as incidental music from DAWN OF THE DEAD. While I didn't recognize most of the cast, I swear to god the guy playing the grandfather is the spitting image of a very young Jackie Chan. I doubt it's him, but Jesus, it sure as hell looks like him (edit: Actually found out this movie was released in 1984 but made in the mid to late 1970's so it is VERY possible that IS Jackie Chan as he did not become a household name until 1980 or so).This Sorcerer can control DEAD CHICKENS for spiritual combat. Beat that bitches!

Over at the IMBD boards, there are a half dozen or so reviews of CENTIPEDE HORROR that describe it as something as disturbing as, say, SALO, or CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. But the movie these reviews describe have nothing to do with the movie I viewed, making me wonder if there's another movie rolling around with the same name.
90% of the scenes described (a dog getting his face eaten off, use of real dead bodies, an ending montage of the surviving characters being tortured, etc) aren't in this movie at all. They all mention a certain film festival, which makes me think a different movie was shown with this title put in the program or something. Or maybe there's some bullshit brewing over there, where some chuckleheads are trying to build some hype around a virtually unknown Chinese goof-fest, making it sound like the end all be all of extreme horror. There are moments that are extreme, that WILL make your skin crawl and make you uncomfortable, but it's not some confrontational classic. It is, however, a roughhouse nasty FUN movie that's highly recommended.

Reviews © Andy Copp

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