Tsui Hark’s A Chinese Ghost Story is rightly considered a classic of Asian fantasy cinema. It’s also one of the films that helped open up the US market to films from Hong Kong. I suppose it was inevitable that it would be remade at some point, and that point is now. Zhenzhao Lin (Snakes, The Unity of Heroes) takes on the rather daunting task. Is The Enchanting Phantom (倩女幽魂之人间情) aka Chinese Ghost Story: Human Love a worthy update?
Scholar Ning Caichen (Chen Xingxu) is basically the ancient Chinese equivalent of a nerd. And he’s not having a good time of it. First, he finds himself caught in the middle of a duel between demon hunter Yan Chixia (Yuen Wah) and a bumbling rival (Steven Cheung). Then he finds himself smitten by Nie Xiao Qian (Eleanor Lee) the problem is, she’s a ghost, bound to serve the Tree Demon Lao Lao (Norman Tsui).
And just to make things more complicated Lao Lao has sent her to take his soul. But she finds herself falling for him as well. As a result Lao Lao decides to marry her off to The Black Mountain Demon. Can our nerdy hero find it in himself to venture into the underworld to save her?
While it’s obviously not going to have the impact the original did, The Enchanting Phantom still manages to be an enjoyable film. There are some excellent action scenes. Starting with the film’s opening in which Lao Lao kills off a team of demon hunters. There are also plenty of chances for the film’s heroes and villains to battle as well. There’s also plenty of wirework and effects. Especially when Yan Chixa unleashes hordes of flying swords against the Tree Demon and its tentacle-like roots.
The Black Mountain Demon is an impressively designed creature. The final showdown with it should have given The Enchanting Phantom a spectacular set piece to end on. Unfortunately, despite being quite good for most of the film, the CGI here is horrible. I don’t know if they ran short on cash before they got to these scenes or what. But it’s certainly the wrong place for it to happen. It really takes the edge off the film’s ending.
And that’s a shame because The Enchanting Phantom has a lot going for it. Eleanor Lee is quite enchanting in the title role. And there is some excellent set design, especially the realm of the Black Mountain Demon and the abandoned temple where they fight Angel and Devil, a hulking demon and his tiny, whip-wielding partner. The scene also has an amusing reference to the first Resident Evil film as well.
The Enchanting Phantom is flawed but still worth seeing. It’s unfortunate that it fumbles right at the goal line.