Our oldest son was in town for a couple of weeks in May. He just completed his junior year at a prominent state university (identities concealed to protect the innocent) and was home to visit with family and friends before heading off to his first bona fide internship. We had a couple of weeks together. We could have chosen any number of movies to watch. Instead, two of the films we watched together were Bruno Mattei’s Shocking Dark and the Chinese horror film Devil Fetus. I know what you’re thinking. Pretty random, right?
It went down like this.
I had a few beers and worked on a novel that night. I was getting ready to wrap up my writing and head off to bed (it was a weeknight, I work for a living, and I’m an old man now) around 10:30 PM. I saved everything and uploaded my files. I turned around in my chair to find Angie and our eldest son sitting on the couch in the den I use as my office. We started talking about bad horror movies, so I recounted a story from an old friend of mine who lives in China. He saw it on a bus or a train or somewhere. The movie was called Devil Fetus. My old friend said it was one of the craziest movies he’d ever seen, and that was saying something; we’d watched some pretty crazy shit. Oh, and he also said it was terrible.
My excitement at this memory started to build. I found it on YouTube.
“Ah ha! There it is!” I said. “Ah well, we’ll have to check it out another day. Alas, I’m old and work for a living.”
“I’m leaving tomorrow,” said the eldest boy.
Silence settled over us. Tension built in the room. The pressure was on me. This was our last chance.
Unfortunately, I could only find a copy of it in Cantonese.
“Should we watch it?” I opened that door. I’ll own this. I always open the door.
The boy shrugged. “Sure.” Angie was uncharacteristically motivated to watch this thing. Devil Fetus. I know she just wanted to spend more time with her boy. A mother’s love. Sacrifices abound.
We streamed it on the big screen, turned up the stereo and let it go. I cracked open another beer, and another. God help us — we watched Devil Fetus, circa 1983. In Cantonese, with no subtitles.
Here’s how it went, as far as I can tell: the film opened on a street festival of dragons. A man in a beret is conducting an auction on the street. One of the items is a jade vase. It catches a woman’s eye after the dragon decoration around the vase’s handle turns its head. The tiny dragon’s eyes light up and some kind of laser sound effect happens. Of course now she’s gotta have the dragon vase so they go home with this thing. First night at home with the vase, the gal gets raped by a green slimy beast. She plays it off a little awkwardly the next day (whew, what a dream). She has kids after all and … well, the next day the kids make off with the vase themselves, inspect it, and make all manner of comments about it. Momma shows up and takes the vase back. Next night: more slimy green demon lover … except this time her husband walks in on her having demon sex, grabs the vase, and smashes it against the floor. Immediately, boils erupt over his skin, he turns blue and slimy, and rips off one side of his face to reveal a squirming nest of worms.
So far, so good, right?
Well, the family takes this all as a bad sign and starts doing some praying and warding off of demons, etc. The father is dead now, of course, the children scarred. Enter a ghostly voice calling the woman’s name one night. They call some priests to exorcise the house. Ho ho, bad move! As soon as the exorcism begins, a woman’s belly swells to the size of a Happy Birthday balloon then explodes with a green slimy devil baby — but then she disappears! Was she there? Was she a spirit? Who knows? It’s all in Cantonese and I have no idea what’s going on! Not sure this really matters, we forge ahead. The weeping children in the following scenes imply this was their mother who exploded. Now their mother and father are dead. The priests march out in a cloud of incense. Thanks!
Now we get to fast-forward a few years. The boys are older now, sparring with wooden swords like they do in China. It turns out the older kid is a bad ass, but he has this dog that he loves a lot. He’s been taken in by some family members with a swimming pool and a beautiful girl swimming around in it. Boy meets girl, he brings her home to meet grandma, who’s tapping incessantly on some wooden thing, praying all the time. Well, don’t mind grandma, come into my bedroom, let’s do some incense stuff … and by the way, did I mention how my parents died?
Some time goes by and they get hooked up at some party with crazy 1980’s proto-disco techno music and dancing. I guess it’s true love, but grandma seems a little trepidatious … and for good reason: homeboy’s dog, Boby, loses its shit and attacks his girlfriend, so he pulls a sword off the wall and cuts it down. Next evening, during the burial service, the younger brother from earlier in the movie shows up again. He’s acting a little kooky. He wants a moment alone with the dog (his older brother is home, wounded from the dog’s attack). So, yeah … the buddies leave, the dead dog’s eyes light up like hell-fire and shoot a demon spirit into the the boy with red spiral death-lights. This doesn’t bode well for the family. The aunt and uncle (presumably) are concerned. They go home to grandma and explain what happened. She seems to be catching on (she’s the only one following the storyline at this point).
Meanwhile, the younger brother, now demon possessed, has a flashy-glowing moment and then takes on an Arnie Cunningham from Christine kind of look, complete with smudged eye sockets, pale face, and red shirt. He goes out to the woods, digs up the dog Boby, eats his guts, and comes home in a bit of mess. After a tense moment with grandma, who blasts him across the room with the power of prayer, he goes upstairs, has a gender confusion moment, dresses like a girl, then goes outside to the pool and tries to drown his brother’s fiancé in the pool. Finally, grandma has totally had it. I mean, now she’s really done. She goes to a local sorcerer priest, who preps for battle with the demon. This yields an epic furniture-spinning, blue laser-shooting, sword spinning, fiery-explosion sorcery battle where people fly around the room and shoot green lasers out of their eyes before getting sprayed with blood and disappearing like Jedi getting struck down in light saber battles. But hey, this isn’t over yet. The kid appears outside, then spins like a corkscrew into the ground.
Right about this time Ian shakes his head, bleary-eyed, and says, “I’m going to bed.”
“No, wait!” I’m panicked by the threat of leaving us in the room to endure this alone. I know Angie didn’t actually want to watch Devil Fetus, she wanted to spend time with her son. I have to do something quick. We just spent an hour watching this turd. We had to tough it out together, such is the code of bad horror movies. Granted, this was easier for me, since I’d been drinking, but still … I turned the film on fast-forward.
Oh-ho, my gamble paid off immediately. The family uncle walks out into a hallway and gets smashed between some in-rushing walls like some kind of Indiana Jones trap that crushes his face like a jelly donut. The aunt goes looking for her missing husband, only to be stalked by demon boy. Furniture starts to move, the carpet pulses like a Magic Fingers bed, a mirror shatters and bleeds.
Fortunately, the older brother is on his way! He runs upstairs to find the devil brother pounding some vodka or gin or something. The aunt is upstairs traumatized. Alone in the room with the devil boy, the fiancé picks up the phone to make a call for help — but hold on, bitch, it’s time to die! Purple, blue, and green illuminations fill the room and more weird lasery shit happens. Watch out: he’s a ghost, he’s a phantom … no he’s a rapist and he’s got his brother’s fiancé again! The older brother shows up just in time — with a sword! An epic battle ensues, the younger brother rolls around in corners, sticks to the ceiling, throws more furniture with his demon powers, and chatters gibberish. He slides in half to evade his brother’s sword.
Finally, the younger brother demon kid, he’s had enough. He stands before them — and splits open! A slimy demon emerges. The older brother chops off its head, and another head appears. He chops off that head, and yet another head appears! Rinse and repeat. Finally, the last head is severed, and the demon thing spews some sewage looking shit from its neck hole and falls to the ground.
Whew. It’s finally over.
No, it’s not! The last disembodied, greasy, green demon head disintegrates into a skull but is still alive and crawls after them on its ragged severed neck!
We looked at each other with blurry eyes, not sure what to make of what just happened to us. To be sure, this was not a good use of our time. Yes, we spent it in a room together and were more or less awake for most of it. We had shared this experience, but hard to say if we were better people for it.
“I’m going to bed.” I nodded as if accepting defeat.
“That was terrible,” Angie said. I nodded assent to this as well, as if this had all been my fault. How was it I was to blame when I was the one who said two hours ago I needed to go to bed? Well, I guess they wouldn’t have been tempted by Devil Fetus if I hadn’t mentioned it. This was a hell of my own making … so, it was done.
That was the last I saw of the boy before he took off to bed, then took off to see his girlfriend the next morning (she’s headed to Italy for a month. Has she heard of Lucio Fulci? Will she understand what just happened? Who knows…), and now his first internship in the big cruel world.
I wish you the best, Ian. So long, take care of yourself, and we’ll see you again soon. Devil Fetus had its way with all of us. Next time, you pick the movie.