Last Ghost Standing

Reviewed by YTSL

Two things struck me as rather obvious when I was watching this late 1999 film (all of whose events are supposed to take place on the last night of that year).  One is that it’s an incredibly low budget affair (we’re talking paper mache and clay-mation type monsters here.  Also, most of the action takes place within a single location and the cast consists of just eleven individuals, some of whom have significant roles behind as well as in front of the camera).  Another is that it’s a labor of love, made by immensely creative people -- who in likelihood comprise a bunch of friends (as implied by the production company being called -- I kid you not! -- the Buddy Film Creative Workshop) -- who were going all out to entertain and have fun as well as make money.

We are, after all, talking about a supposed horror film -- which I must admit to treating way more as a comedy (the way I’ve done with such as “Mr. Vampire”); and boy, does it have quite a few laugh out loud moments! -- whose chief ghoul (Francis Ng makes a guest-starring appearance as the one who conjures up all the monsters to test as well as haunt people) is upset as hell that:  Recent films lack heart, sincerity and quality; consequently are unable to attract an audience into cinemas; and movie business people are taking their profits and investing in property and gold rather than ploughing it back into the dream factory and making better movies!  What's more, while LAST GHOST STANDING has been accused of ripping off some Western horror works (E.g., “The Evil Dead”, “Frankenhooker”, Lamberto Bava's “Demons”) and swiping a particular gag found in one of the local “Troublesome Night” series of movies, there is ample evidence of its paying homage and making fun of -- rather than outright and tiredly copying and following -- now “classic” horror movies and “standard” conventions along with Hong Kong media figures like Jackie Chan (Chin Ka Lok plays him as a lecherous, big-nosed, kung-fu-ing, wanna-be-ghost-buster who actually screams out “Who Am I?” at one point in the film!).

Yes, the cavernous and largely empty (for the 9:30 p.m. show) movie theatre -- situated on 666 King’s Road -- which ends up feeling like a place from where no one escape may seem like familiar cinematic territory when an Alien-type creature bursts outs of someone’s stomach and another person’s head gets decapitated.  But surely LAST GHOST STANDING is unique in having ALL of the following:  A fiend being finished off by way of its being trapped and exploding in a popcorn machine; a female flying head that seems singularly intent on biting the genitals and butt of men; M. G. Escher-type situations; references to Peter’s thrice denying his knowing Jesus Christ and a Ricky Martin soccer World Cup Finals 1998 song; icky bathroom scenes reminiscent of one in “Trainspotting”; a shit-spewing monster; and another which spits out leeches?!
If such descriptions are already boggling the mind to (try to) imagine, consider that the following characters also are to be found within LAST GHOST STANDING:  A cinema ticket seller who doesn’t feel pain when he chops of his own arm because he’s a self-described underworld member (Wayne Lai convincingly portrays this very strange triad member); a chopper-brandishing concessions-stand owner who also openly records movies to make into pirate VCDs (Amanda Lee gleefully plays this woman with the insane glint in her eyes); a love-struck film projectionist (Simon Lui is rather sweet as the movie’s saddest, most scared, and straightest man); and his wide-eyed, pig-tailed girlfriend (Sherming Yiu ends up playing a much more complex role than one initially thinks will be the case).  Midway through the film, they are joined by a policewoman who was planning to attend a rave party once she got off work (Pauline Suen looks fine both in uniform and when stripped off it!); as well as three pot-smoking hip low-lifers who find more than they bargained for in the cinema’s men’s room (Benny Chan, Angela Tong and Pinky Cheung are clearly having quite a bit of fun essaying these parts).  Ng Chi Hung (whose name makes me think that he must be related to LAST GHOST STANDING’s producer and executive producer, Ng Kin Hung) rounds off the movie’s entire cast -- bar for those obscured by goo and whatever else inside the monster suits (probably some of these named individuals when they weren’t playing their other parts!) -- by appearing for just a few minutes at the film’s beginning as the barking bailiff who announces that the cinema is due to be permanently closed on January 1st, 2000 (the day after).
Maybe it was because I already was too busy dealing with -- and exhausted from gasping and guffawing at -- all the ideas and gags thrown out so quickly at succession and pretty much non-stop.  In any event, I honestly didn’t care that the movie really didn’t have that layered or complex a story (which, incidentally, is credited as having been conceived by line producer as well as star Sherming Yiu, director as well as scriptwriter Billy Chung and Ng Chi Hung from an original novel by Simon Lui).  While this offering does have its critics (including Ryan Law of the Hong Kong Movie Database), and probably will displease true fans of horror efforts, I must concur with Tim Youngs (of Another Hong Kong Movie Page) that LAST GHOST STANDING is “a wonderful little episode of gross-out horror comedy from start to finish” and state my belief that an immensely enjoyable time can be had from viewing a movie whose background music I even found myself appreciating.

My rating for this film:  8