Mystery of Chessboxing

Forget Scream’s Ghost Face Killer. This is the movie that actually originated Ghostie, one of the all-time legendary kung fu antagonists (Mystery of Chessboxing also inspired Wu rapper’s Ghost Face Killah  moniker).

The plot couldn’t be any simpler: revenge. That’s the lighter fluid that fuels a thousand of these films.

Old, ruthless Ghost Face has killed Ah Pao’s father. And Ah Pao needs to go find the geezer with the monster eyebrows and the long wig that’s always threatening to come off his noggin. Problem is, Ah Pao doesn’t know kung fu and Ghost Face isn’t ready to be put out to retirement home pasture, as he’s kicked the ass of everyone else in this film. What to do? Find a kung fu school, of course!

Why? To pad running time with lengthy exercises, montages, and bits of feel the Qi jibber-jabber and everyone should be glad they did. At the first school, teachers and pupils alike torment poor AP, who is as low in the pecking order as you get without a janitor outfit and a mop. He has to bring them all bowls of rice, eventually, become such a proficient server that he’s the flare bartender of doling out rice, flipping plates over his head and behind his back and displaying such incredible dexterity that he’s…a star pupil shown everything the sensei knows?

Hardly.

Ah Pao is booted from the school, and ends up under the tutelage of a chess master, hence the film’s title. It’s there that he finally gets instruction necessary to beat the holy living tar out of the Ghost Faced Killer.

Their ultimate showdown is one for the ages, a throw-down of epic proportions.

Genre fans will get a kick out of (no pun intended) Siu Tin Yuen as a humble cook. He’s best known, of course, for his turns in Drunken Master and Story of Drunken Master.

[check out a full discussion of Mystery of Chessboxing on the Really Awful Movies Podcast]

Horror Movie Dictionary: Billhook

Is there a more sinister horror movie weapon in the pantheon of horror movies than the billhook? Many people don’t know what that is (including the authors of this site until very recently). The dictionary definition of a billhook is as follows: “a tool with a sickle-shaped blade with a sharp inner edge, used for pruning or lopping branches or other vegetation.” There’s also the very similar reap-hook (pictured above in the hicksploitation / Pennsylvania Dutch-sploitation Children of the Corn, which we covered on the Really Awful Movies Podcast).

According to the book, A History of the Garden in Fifty Tools, it’s close in kin to the Malay panga, the Cuban machete, the German forester’s heppe, the Italian roncole…author Bill Laws says “it’s more likely to be found in the hands of a butcher than a gardener.” How true that is, for our purposes here.

Bottom line: they’re scary and deadly. Why? It’s that curved end.

Curved weaponry are almost always more sinister than straight-edge blades in horror films. Case in point: the incredible use of the razor-sharp metal hook by the Berlin coven in the re-imaging of the Argento classic, Suspiria. Mario Bava used one to terrific and terrifying effect in his incredible A Bay of Blood. (In fact, they’re common enough they didn’t even make it into our book, Death by Umbrella! The 100 Weirdest Horror Movie Weapons).

Fiction met fact when in August, 2018, The Independent reported on a film assistant who ran amok in an artists’ commune in North London, wielding a two-foot machine with a bill hook. The accused was reported as saying, “I’m going to cut you. I’m going to burn you. I’m going to kill you.”