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Human Lanterns Blu-ray Review

“Human Lanterns” is a clunky martial arts horror film.

And now for something completely different. Director Sun Chung’s 1982 feature “Human Lanterns” is a departure from the usual Shaw Brothers production as it’s a martial arts horror movie that undoubtedly was capitalizing on the slasher film craze of the 80’s. The story revolves around an ongoing feud between Master Lung and Third Master T’an who argue about everything from lanterns to a courtesan they have both been seeing. Hoping to best T’an in the Lantern Festival, Master Lung approaches a lantern maker Ch’un Fang to create one. Ch’un Fang and Master Lung have a history together which (as you might expect) plays into the story. It turns out Ch’un Fang is a serial killer who makes lanterns out of his victims (although nobody initially knows this). When people begin to disappear, Lung and T’an are essentially played against one another until they discover who the real madman is.

On paper, a martial arts horror film about feuds and revenge sounds intriguing, but writers Chung Sun and Kuang Ni’s approach to the story lets “Human Lanterns” down. Structurally, “Human Lanterns” is written in a way that eliminates tension. We (the audience) know who the killer is early on while the characters don’t learn the truth until later on. Sure, the rivalry between Lung and T’an heats up but the minimal characterization makes it tough to invest in these characters. 

The blend of action and horror is also not as wild as one might expect (or indeed as epic as the cover art makes it look). The slow pacing makes the viewer wait for the chaos to begin. The action involving hooks, swords and fans is exciting (the end showdown is generally rewarding), but the horror element is perhaps not as prevalent as one might hope. The deranged workshop, the lantern making, the graphic violence, and the unique outfit the killer dons are visually interesting, but they’re undercut by a lack of scares and blatant misogyny. 


Presentation: 2.35:1 1080p. How does it look? The film boasts an HD transfer from the Original Negative. Once again, 88 Films offers up another pristine print of a Shaw Brothers title. 

Audio Track: Mandarin 2.0 DTS-HD MA. How does it sound? The Mandarin track isn’t likely to wow anyone, but it’s solid. Note: There is not an English dub available. 

* A double sided poster
* A booklet with an essay by Barry Forshaw and photos.
* Original trailer
* Commentary by Podcast On Fire Network podcasters Kenneth Brorsson and Phil Gillon.
* A 13 minute honest interview with actress Susan Shaw who talks about her career.
* A near 15 minute interview with actress  Linda Chu.
* “Lau Wing- The Ambiguous Hero”- A lengthy 51 minute interview with the actor (the sound quality isn’t the best though).

June 3, 2022 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , ,

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