The Demon’s Baby

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The Demon’s Baby (1998) opens with General Hsu (Elvis Tsui) pillaging and ancient temple of its treasures. Among the many jewels and golden icons are five vessels, each containing an evil demon that is suppressed by the sacred power of a golden Buddha statue. General Hsu brings his loot to his home where, through the avarice of his doctor, the demons are quickly unleashed, possessing the fetuses growing within his four concubines and the recently dismissed maid Yu (Annie Wu Chen-Chun). It’s up to General Hsu’s chef Six (Emotion Cheung Kam-Ching), assistant cook Ben (Ronald Wong Ban), and their exorcist pal (Anthony Wong) to prevent the end of the world.

This Wong Jing production, written and directed by Kant Leung Wang-Fat, brings a workmanlike approach to some tried and true genre staples. The Demon’s Baby, in that uniquely Hong Kong way, mixes up a few different genres to create a rather complex little horror film. One could describe The Demon’s Baby as an episode of Upstairs, Downstairs that devolves into a more gruesome riff on The Unborn (1991). As crazy as that description sounds it is accurate. But this is the charm of these supernatural horror adventure comedies.

Like many films of this ilk, The Demon’s Baby owes more than a little to Mr. Vampire (1985). Mr. Vampire‘s influence can be seen in both the narrative structure of The Demon’s Baby as well as in how the film deals with tonal shifts from gross-out horror to light comedy. The obvious difference between the two films is in the economy of the scripts. The Demon’s Baby quite literally feels like two different films that have been spliced together.

The fact that The Demon’s Baby is a mediocre example of this type of Hong Kong horror film doesn’t mean that it isn’t fun to watch. Needless to say that the best scenes are those with Anthony Wong. Wong gives a wonderfully hilarious performance as the heroic exorcist who sleeps in a coffin and likes to be called “pal”. Elvis Tsui also hams it up as the antagonistic master of the house with a sinister relish. There isn’t really a bad performance in The Demon’s Baby, it’s just that none of the other actors electrify the screen the same way as Wong and Tsui.

The real stars of The Demon’s Baby are the monstrous hand puppets that erupt from the open bellies of the possessed women. These gnarly little critters are dripping with red corn syrup and squealing like pigs. It’s a totally goofy and utterly improbable monster effect. These demon babies are pure camp. They are the ugly cousins of the monster in Devil Fetus (1983). Actually, these two films would make a pretty good, though disturbing, double bill.