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The Mysterious Story of Longyun Town

Long Yun Zhen Guai Tan
2022 / 74m - China
Fantasy, Action
The Mysterious Story of Longyun Town poster

I've come to a point where I'm starting to recognize directors and other films they've made, which is quite something considering the plethora of similar films released on these Chinese streaming platforms. As I liked Liu Xiandi's previous one quite a bit, I had medium-high hopes for this one, and he didn't disappoint.

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Longyun Town has a dark history of abuse. After solving a serial child kidnapping case things quiet down, but 20 years later a new criminal turns up, kidnapping and killing young virgins. A ragtag trio of investigators is put on the case, but they'll have to cut through a lot of deceit and trickery if they want to unveil the real criminal.

The cinematography is lush and colorful, the action scenes are on point, the mystery is pretty fun and the performances are decent too. The short runtime and slick pacing only add to the fun, there's just nothing truly distinctive to set this film apart from its peers. If they'd give their directors just a bit more freedom, I think they're very close to delivering their first little genre masterpiece.

Mystery of Muye: The Guardian of the Mountain

2021 / 75m - China
Adventure, Fantasy
Mystery of Muye: The Guardian of the Mountain poster

Another one made to fill China's insatiable hunger for tomb raider adventures. The base quality of these types of films has risen considerably the past couple of years, though subpar CG and a very strict adherence to genre clich├ęs keep them from becoming anything more than easily consumable genre filler. The Mystery of Muye is no exception.

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During a mining expedition, an evil warlord hits a hidden tomb by accident. Drawn by the hunger for treasure, he goes inside, but soon finds himself and his men trapped. One of the relics finds its way out of the tomb though, triggering a new expedition that leads up a treacherous mountain. More tombs hunting and traps await.

Having watched a couple of these films before, it becomes pretty difficult to separate them. This one sure felt like it was part of some franchise, but it's hard to tell without so much of the context hidden for Western audiences. Apart from some shoddy CG monsters, it was a pretty fun and amusing adventure, helped by slick pacing and a short runtime. Good genre filler.

The Wicked Wife

2022 / 92m - China
Fantasy, Horror
The Wicked Wife poster

Pretty disappointing. This film felt like one of those misguided 90s Hong Kong horror films. Even though there is some interesting mood building going on, gross overacting, a complete lack of tension and slightly too familiar folklore make this is rather sad attempt to create easy genre filler. When China tries to crawl out of its comfort zone, it's clear they have some ways to go.

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You're getting three supernatural stories for the price of one, a familiar setup for fans of Hong Kong horror. A theater troupe is caught out in between two towns when bad weather hits them. They find shelter where they can spend the night, but the area is known for its fox folklore and when the troupe dredged up the old stories, people start to get frightened.

Building up tension is essential for this type of film, but Chinese horror often seems too focused on merely narrating the lore. The crummy CG and the terrible overacting certainly don't help either, but the problem with films like this feels more structural. I had relatively high hopes for The Wicked Wife, but they simply must do better.