盂蘭神功 (Hungry Ghost Ritual) (Blu-ray release 2014-9-11) is a ghost movie from Hong Kong. The protagonist reluctantly takes over his ill father’s opera troupe, which is preparing a show for ghosts as a traditional ritual. He thinks some unfriendly staff play pranks on him, so he installs cameras around his room, only to find ghosts.
Most reviews of this movie are mixed, because its plot and characters are thin. However, I think this is a very competent effort from the first time director, as proven by its much better than expected box office. The ghostly apparitions appear frequently (perhaps a bit too frequent) so there won’t be a long time in the movie with nothing happening. It also successfully combines western style of ghost movie tricks in a traditional Chinese setting. The atmosphere is great. Although reviewers criticize its plot to be incomplete (it is), I’ve seen much worse from recent Thailand ghost movies, and I think some well-regarded Japanese horror movies have almost no plot at all.
[SPOILER – ENDING EXPLANATION]
The ending revelation in the movie is far too brief, so some viewers are confused. In particular, there is a crucial shot of an important photo showing the protagonist as a child with his mother that appears for less than half a second. The following is what happens, based on what Carrie Ng said in the Making Of feature in the Blu-ray.
Although the movie intercuts bewteen two opera troupes, one is contemporary with an old boss – the ill father of the protagonist, and the other one actually occurred 40 years ago with a young boss. The old and young bosses are the same person. Carrie Ng’s character, who had leg injuries and got replaced by a younger actress, was the culprit who set fire 40 years ago, then committed suicide. She was the wife of the boss and had a little child not seen in the movie (except for the photo), who grew up to become the protagonist (Nick Cheung). This fire killed a lot of people, who became ghosts and take revenge on the boss and his son.
Admittedly this does not explain everything, especially concerning which ghost possessed which person, who is the mother of the sister, and what is the significance of the dead girl friend, etc.