Here is two hundred seventy minutes of B level martial arts yummieness. These three films are a great mixture of martial artistry, supernatural silliness and enough cheese for a month’s worth of sandwiches.
This is a collection of the Spirited Killer Trilogy. There is Spirited Killer the only one of the three that has Tony Jaa (Interestingly there is a 4 in the title of the movie, not sure what that means). Spirited Killer 2: Awakened Zombie Battles, and Spirited Killer 3: Ghost Wars. This is not a trilogy in the sense that it is one story continued through three movies, but all three have certain things in common. They all three take place out in a rural area of Thailand, the landscape is all riversides, scrub and brush and deep gullies. They all three have several groups of people brought into the area for different reasons. And all three feature some unstoppable golem supernaturally skilled in martial arts. For all that they each have a unique story.
Spirited Killer starts out with a shaman preparing a concoction to make the old young and the young immortal. Whether the Shaman had evil intentions from the beginning or just screwed up the villagers who try his potion end up dying. The shaman is then run out of town and killed. Years later a group of Japanese students are traveling to the village to look for ancient relics. At the same time a Chinese businessman is leading a group to the village to look for a mysterious metal. At the same time a group of villagers returning to the village with agricultural equipment is assaulted on the road by an a man who single handedly kills all but two of the group who barely make it back to the village to tell of the attack. Of course everybody then teams up to try to take out this “Spirited Killer”. The Spirited Killer is Panna Rittikrai mentor to Tony Jaa who plays one of the Chinese group.
Spirited Killer 2: Awakened Zombie Battles begins with a Chinese family looking for the corpse of there Grandfather who they wish to return to China and inter in the family tomb. They venture to the forest where their Grandfather’s tomb is supposed to be but have trouble finding it. To find it they cast a spell to bring the corpse to them. Also in the forest is a criminal gang performing a ritual to transfer the knowledge and courage of their recently deceased leader to their new leader. Add to this a group of friends looking for the tomb of the Chinese Grandfather to loot it of the treasure that was buried with the old man. Of course everything goes wrong and the Chinese corpse and the deceased gang leader become zombies intent on killing everybody in the forest.
Spirited Killer 3: Ghost Wars is centered around a mystical black egg lost in the forest which if used in certain rites will either give you a blessing from God or turn you into the Devil. A group of Japanese, Chinese and Thai are looking for the egg, but just as they find it an evil sorcerer steals it from them and uses it to turn himself into a devil. Twenty years later a new group is setting out to find the egg. Instead of finding the egg however they disrupt the evil sorcerer’s, now a devil, original rite awakening him. So he sets out with his minions from hell to destroy everybody in the forest.
Forget all that though the stories are just excuses to set up the fights. The star of all three of these movies in Panna Rittikrai, who directed as well as the choreographed the fights. Anytime he is on the screen you know you going to see something entertaining. The fighting is mostly just fist, foot and sword, there is a little wire work, but most of the aerial stuff appears to be talented people just jumping around. Something I loved about these films is that there was always a sense of fun about them they never took themselves that seriously. Especially the second one. For better or worse Panna was not afraid to mix comedy in with the fighting. Sometimes even mocking the fight. For example one scene has ninjas actually saying “nanannanananana” during each attack. In another group melee two fighters quit fighting each other and start betting on their compatriots. I loved every minute of it. If you like your cheese with wine and not movies this might be three movies to stay away from. I found them to be a lot of fun.
Objectively the wide screen video is not that great. There are blotches and scratches visible from the transfer print. The color balance bounces around from scene to scene and sometimes the shift is extreme. The films were shot in the mid to late nineties but they look more like something from the early seventies. The problems are all with the print. The transfer itself is great I never noticed any compression artifacts or other digital problems. Don”t be afraid of the low video score though the video is far from perfect but it just adds to the wonderful cheese factor.
All three films are presented in stereo. The first movie gives you a choice of English or Thai audio. The other two are in Thai with English subtitles. The foley is typical martial arts sounds. The thuds, thwaps, clanks and clinks you expect to here in a martial arts movie. The score is interesting, there are moments that it sounds remarkably familiar. You can also make a guessing game out of where little snippets of score come from.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The artwork features Tony Jaa with a few snapshots form the actual movies. The DVD comes in a double width case but all three movies are on one disc. The artwork from the case is carried over to the simple menu. The menu simply gives you a choice between starting the movies or viewing a chapter list. There are no bonus features or extras.
Okay, so the audio and video are sub par, there are no extras or bonus features, there are only a few minutes of Tony Jaa, all there is to recommend this DVD collection are the movies themselves. So the question is are they enough. Yes they are. Watching all three of the movies together is a real treat. Most of the actors are in all three. They all look like they could have been filmed in the same place back to back. It’s almost as if a bunch of unusually talented friends got together in the sticks to make some movies. A sense of fun seems to ooze out of the TV when I stick in this DVD.
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10
The Movie 7/10
The Audio 6/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 1/10
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10