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Photograph: Applause Pictures Ltd./Dumplings

6 Classic Hong Kong horror movies that will add more spook to ghost month

Horrifying throwbacks that will keep you up all night

Written by
Elaine Soh

The Hungry Ghost Festival has arrived. The time of the year when it is believed that spirits are released from the underworld through the gates of hell to roam around and walk among us. During this period, Chinese rituals like the burning of joss papers are performed on the streets, with superstitions and warnings abound. In case you're not quite feeling the goosebumps yet, here are some classic Hong Kong horror movies that will surely make your hair stand on end. 

RECOMMENDED: Want to experience the traditional festival? Here are some of the best things to do in Hong Kong during the Hungry Ghost Festival.

Classic Hong Kong horror movies

Dumplings (2004)

Don't be fooled by the unassuming title of this movie. Dumplings' true appeal lies in its niche style, employing nauseating rather than jump-scare horror. Unlike typical Chinese horror flicks with long-haired ghosts clad in a white robe, the film trades on the disturbing acts of chasing beauty.

The story follows middle-aged former actress Mrs Li (Miriam Yeung) and her extreme approach to retaining her youth in order to keep her husband interested. Through contacts, she meets Aunt Mei (Bai Ling), a former gynaecologist who uses aborted fetuses as filling for dumplings – apparently the secret to the fountain of youth. The two begin scheming to attain the best quality ingredient for their dumpling fillings and – we'll leave the rest to your imagination. Needless to say, this will turn you off from dumplings for quite a while.   

The Eye (2002)

Having a pair of healthy, working eyes is what many people take for granted, but not for 20-year old violinist Wong Kar Mun (Lee Sin-Je), who had finally regained her eyesight after a successful cornea transplant operation. However, troubles follow when she starts seeing apparitions and experiencing ghostly encounters. One of the most unforgettable scenes in the entire movie is the famous elevator scene where Kar Mun encounter the ghost of an old man. The slow-motion technique showing the spirit closing in on her while she anxiously waits to get out of the claustrophobic space sure makes a 30-second lift ride seem like a torturous eternity. The movie, which spawned a 2008 Hollywood remake, still makes us think twice about entering an empty lift alone.  



Rigor Mortis (2013)

Hopping zombies, long-haired girls in white robes, kung fu action, and black magic – Rigor Mortis is filled with Asian horror folktales that have just the right amount of terror to keep us on the edge of our seats. A modern twist and tribute to the 1980s Mr Vampire series, the story revolves around the old franchise's co-star Chin Siu Ho, who plays himself in the film as a down-and-out and depressed horror film actor who just moved into a decrepit flat building to make ends meet. His failed suicide attempt ended up with spirits possessing his body. Enters Yau, a retired vampire hunter who helps him exorcise the spirits. Chin Siu Ho later realises that his apartment is haunted by a pair of twin girl ghosts. The movie also extends to feature stories about some of Chin's rather 'eccentric' neighbours and their ghastly stories. The film's slow pace and ghoulish special effects make the movie intense and so poignant that you'd have to fight the uneasiness as you follow through the story. 

The Imp (1981)

Combine Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist, and you get The Imp. Yes, the movie revolves around possession, reincarnation, and a sinister plot for an unborn baby. After taking up a job as a night-watch guard at a commercial building, Keung begins to encounter strange incidents, which include his colleagues dying one by one and a malicious imp possessing his unborn baby. Filled with an ominous mood and impending doom, this twisted and disturbing film will have you dripping in cold sweat. 


Troublesome Night (1997)

While this low-budget film is not particularly terrifying, it is definitely one of the most popular and longest horror film series in Hong Kong, spawning 19 sequels between 1997 to 2003. Rather than gory horror elements, this movie centres on strange ghost occurrences in the haunted streets of Hong Kong. It features four loosely connected stories – starting with a teenager's encounter with a mysterious woman near a grave, followed by another story of a character who loses her way while trying to call her husband, then a romantic affair between a girl and a ghost, and finally, the last story sees a group of friends visiting a haunted movie theatre. These comedic horror tales are not exactly the most frightening but they are definitely entertaining to watch. 

Three (2002)

This horror film consists of three ominous segments – MemoriesThe Wheel, and Going Home – by Asian directors from Korea, Thailand, and Hong Kong. While there are no ghosts in the movie, the stories are filled with creepy Asian folktales that explore the supernatural and the dark side of humanity. The Hong Kong story,  Going Home, follows Yu (Leon Lai), and his obsession in preserving the body of his wife in order to resurrect her through Chinese medicine. The movie is filled with disturbing visuals and dramatic plot twists that guarantees a harrowing experience for your ghost festival. 

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