Painted Skin is a popular ghost story based off of Pu Songling’s classic short story collection, Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio.
A scholar (Adam Cheng) encounters a beautiful maiden (Joey Wong) in an alley on his way home and leads her to his house, where he tries to marry her as a concubine. By chance, his wife and he discover that she is in fact a ghost, who must “paint” and graft a facial skin mask over her face to look human. Terrified, the scholar enlists the help of two Taoist priests, who give him a magic whisk to keep the ghost at bay. However, it appears that the ghost is benign – she merely wants to escape the clutches of an evil Yin-Yang King, a faceless, powerful spirit-king who shuttles at ease between the mortal world and the spirit, and who seems to be controlling the destinies of some recently deceased souls.
The two Taoist priests battle the King to release the ghost, but realize their magical prowess is not sufficient. Instead, they use the ghost to track down a highly skilled Taoist Master (Sammo Hung) in the countryside. Meanwhile, the Yin-Yang King has possessed the scholar and is wreaking havoc in the mortal plane. The priests finally discover and convince the Taoist Master, who decides to destroy the evil spirit-king so as to guide the ghost back to Hades
There is something enjoyable about the simple costumes, plain sets, and basic shooting locations. Sometimes I feel modern films go a little bit overboard. The story is well written and the cast is amazing together. This version of Painted Skin (as there are others) focuses more on the extraction of the ghost rather than the big reveal. If you are a fan of 90’s Hong Kong films or the original A Chinese Ghost Story trilogy then you can’t go wrong with Painted Skin.
Directed by King Hu
Adam Cheng Siu-Chow (Swordsman Adventure, Zu: The Warriors from the Magic Mountain, Fong Sai Yuk 1 & 2) as Mr Wong
Lam Ching-Ying (A Touch of Zen, Prodigal Son, Mr. Vampire 1, 2, & 3) as Purple monk
Wu Ma (The Wandering Swordsman, White Vengeance, A Battle of Wits) as Assistant / Dog meat seller
Lau Shun (Swordsman, Dragon Inn, The Legend of Zu) as Cheng To Ling
Other Painted Skin media
- Painted Skin (1993 film)
- Painted Skin (2008 film)
- Painted Skin (2011 tv series)
- Painted Skin: The Resurrection (2012 film)