Based on the literary classic, Journey To The West: Conquering The Demons is actually a prequel setting up the iconic team of characters we all know and love and how Taoist priest Tang Sanzang (Wen Zhang) got to meet them and, eventually, journey with them.
And, since Stephen Chow's in charge (along with co-director Derek Kwok), you can expect a pretty unique take on the familiar tale.
To give you an idea, the film opens with a fish demon eating a father Jaws-style in front of his child (with blood spilling in the water) and, soon after, eating the child. From the get-go, this is a brutal, surprisingly dark affair. Which makes the more light-hearted tone of the humour feel quite mean-spirited. In a good way. Parts of this movie could comfortably be part of a horror movie in the vein of The Cell. Think a dark comedy like Delicatessen, with its odd bursts of disturbing moments, but with an omnipresent cartoonish feel. Chow is certainly not sugar-coating anything this time. If a little kid dies: a little kid dies and that's that. The whole pig demon sequence alone is so messed-up it would give adults nightmares!
Who knew that pigs, fish and monkeys could be so terrifying?!
I always thought that this old monkey was mischievous but not a full-blown mass murderer!
One wonders who the target audience is for this movie since this frankly bizarre re-imagining should alienate older, more traditional viewers while younger viewers will find it off-putting and probably won't eat pork for a year after that. I guess that leaves edgy 20 year-olds with a thirst for blood and Stephen Chow fans. The action in the film is completely over-the-top but incredibly creative and tons of fun, Chow has a way of pulling off the craziest set pieces and he once again makes it work. The lovely Shu Qi's bracelet attacks alone are badass enough to make you beg for more fight scenes and, happily, more are soon delivered. Of course, this being a Stephen Chow joint, the film is also very funny and peppered with off-beat, anarchic jokes. Even in the darkest, creepiest scenes, Chow finds something silly to poke fun at.
While not a spoof, Conquering The Demons is definitely not a straight-up, predictable adaptation. Instead, it's a prequel/reboot with comedy and horror in equal amounts. Make of it what you will, chances are you'll either be thoroughly entertained by its antics or be turned off by the strangeness of it all.
I, for one, do recommend it as it includes some truly ambitious visuals as well as a good share of likeable characters and surprising twists and turns.
Plus: space Buddha.