Monday, September 6, 2010

Ghost Ballroom

Ghost Ballroom
AKA Meng gui wu ting
Directed by Wilson Tong
Released: 1989
Running Time: 90 minutes
Country of Origin: Hong Kong

Okay, let me try and do this as painlessly as possible. Mei is a prostitute junkie who owes her employer and lover, Master Condon, a great deal of money. Condon and his cronies throw her out of her apartment window and she dies. When she shows up and starts making some serious supernatural trouble for her killers, Condon hires a monk to get rid of Mei’s spirit. Knowing that she can’t do it alone, Mei approaches her living friends to help her gain the strength to take her revenge on Condon.

The kooky circus/pop opening credit music should have been enough to tip me off to what I was in for when Netflix sent me Ghost Ballroom. The plot is as dumb as a bag of rocks and the tone is all over the place. Director Wilson Tong tries to blend gritty urban drama, comedy, horror, kung-fu, and magic in one film and he almost pulls it off. The biggest problem is that Ghost Ballroom is so spastic that it never develops any of its characters. There is no main character to follow. Instead of 2 or 3 leads, this film has 5 or 6 main people who are never painted in anything more than a superficial light. All of the characters are hookers, drug dealers, gamblers, gangsters, junkies, etc. so it is kind of tough to find anyone to relate to.

Where Ghost Ballroom does succeed is in its energy. Once it gets going, the pace never lets up. For the benefit of the Western viewer, there are multiple moments lost in translation that are worth a laugh or two. There are also some genuinely funny parts (some clever, some straight out of the gutter) but the tone problems I mentioned make it difficult to really enjoy them. The horror and magic sequences are cool enough but are usually pretty weak and the sleazy sex is kept to a minimum as well. Had director Tong pushed the envelope in either direction, this film might make a little more sense, entertainmentally (is that a real word?) speaking. It’s not the worst I’ve seen from that wild planet called Hong Kong but it certainly could have been much, much better.

Wait, there's more...

Please note the whimsical font.

Preview of how the viewer will feel in 90 minutes.

Egg tart cunnilingus scene AKA character development.

Surprisingly good kung-fu scene. Don't get used to it.

Cast party revelation: script lacks focus.

Flying Mei to the rescue: scene lacks pants.

Pimpin' ain't just ain't easy. It ain't even possible.

No comment.

I'm willing to believe in his lightning kick but where did that fence come from?

Seriously, do NOT ask where his other hand is.

The po po get some love.

Stop smiling jackass, we're not done yet.

Okay, I am now rooting for the villain.

He's praying you'll forgive the director for the anticlimactic climax.

Here's a clip:


  1. I haven't seen this one, Rich, but Wilson Tong is a fave of many kung fu movie fan. He's acted in dozens of them, mostly as bad guys. He's a villain in 36TH CHAMBER OF SHAOLIN (1978) and a good guy in THE TREASURE HUNTERS (1981) to name two. I see Norman Tsui Siu Keung THE BASTARD SWORDSMAN 1 and 2) in one of those pics above.

  2. @venoms5 - Interesting. Thanks for the info. I thought about doing some research on the film to find out more about it but Ghost Ballroom is just too special.

  3. Those screenshot captions are pretty hilarious. The movie sounds kinda wacky, but I guess it's not as amazing as it looks huh?

  4. @Aaron - You know, it wasn't unwatchable or anything. And it's definitely not boring but it would have been so much better if the writing had given the viewer at least one character to relate to. None of the characters has any personality. It's very weird.