House of hor­rors

The House That Never Dies 2 is based on Bei­jing’s most cel­e­brated haunted house.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Showbiz - By SETO KIT YAN en­ter­tain­ment@thes­

THREE years ago, The House That Never Dies broke the open­ing-day box of­fice record for a Chi­nese lan­guage hor­ror film when it was re­leased, go­ing on to col­lect RMB407mil (RM258mil) at the box of­fice.

The 2014 Chi­nese thriller by Hong Kong au­teur Ray­mond Yip was said to have ben­e­fited much from China’s film cen­sor­ship board’s re­lax­ing of its ‘no-ghosts’ pol­icy, which was in­tended to en­cour­age more di­verse gen­res in do­mes­tic films in or­der to ap­peal to more dis­cern­ing movie­go­ers.

This week sees the re­lease of se­quel The House That Never Dies 2, also known in Man­darin as Jing Cheng 81 Hao 2.

Di­rected by Tai­wanese helmer Joe Chien (Zom­bie Fight Club), it is also based on the true events that are said to have oc­curred at Bei­jing’s most cel­e­brated haunted man­sion, also dubbed the spook­i­est of the “top four ori­en­tal haunted houses”.

Sim­ply known as Chaonei 81 or the Chaonei Church, the le­gendary build­ing is a three-storey French Baroque-style man­sion lo­cated in the Chaoyang­men neigh­bour­hood of the Dongcheng dis­trict in Bei­jing, China.

The re­lease of the thriller sparked re­newed in­ter­est in Bei­jing’s creepi­est land­mark, said to be haunted ever since the Com­mu­nist Rev­o­lu­tion in 1949.

This has led to hun­dreds vis­it­ing the house daily, rang­ing from cu­ri­ous cos­play­ers to su­per­nat­u­ral en­thu­si­asts.

It has been re­ported that the gates had to be locked up to limit vis­i­tors to a man­age­able num­ber, but overzeal­ous fans have been known to scale the walls to get into the com­pound.

Star2 re­cently caught up with the film’s two stars Ju­lian Che­ung and Gil­lian Chung, in sep­a­rate phone in­ter­views from Hong Kong.

In the movie, Che­ung, 45, plays a mil­i­tary of­fi­cer named Zhang Zhisheng, while Chung, 36, plays a war­lord’s daugh­ter named Ji Jin­cui. Strange and hor­rific events be­gin to un­fold when Zhang de­cides to take Ji as his sec­ond wife.

Both Che­ung and Chung serve dou­ble duty, each play­ing two roles, one set in the past and an­other in the present.

In or­der to de­velop two to­tally dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters, Che­ung re­quested to shoot his two char­ac­ters separately.

“I hoped to be able to make a more ob­vi­ous dif­fer­ence in hair­styles, man­ner­isms and other el­e­ments of each char­ac­ter.

“But sched­ul­ing was quite a chal­lenge as we had to work out the lo­gis­tics with other mem­bers of the cast,” ex­plained the ac­tor.

Che­ung said he had to drop some of his other projects so that he could spend enough time get­ting into the psy­che of his char­ac­ters.

Mean­while Chung, who re­cently re­leased an EP al­bum with Twins, said that she was very happy to work with Che­ung.

“Apart from be­ing hand­some, he is also very fun. He may ap­pear out­wardly cool, but he is a very amus­ing fel­low. With­out him, the set would lack a lot of cheer.”

Although she plays Zhang’s wife, the pretty ac­tress re­vealed that she did not have any bed­room se­quences with Che­ung.

“His in­ti­mate scenes were not with me. Be­cause, he’s got an­other wife,” shared Chung, adding that her ad­di­tion to the house­hold makes Zhang’s first wife be­come in­tensely jeal­ous.

Che­ung had also spent a few days in Pe­nang shoot­ing an­other movie ti­tled Seet Mat Je (ten­ta­tive English ti­tle The Leak­ers), di­rected by Her­man Yau (The Sleep Curse).

A video of one of its car chases at Camp­bell Street went vi­ral ear­lier this month.

The House That Never Dies 2 is cur­rently show­ing in cine­mas na­tion­wide. See the next page for GSC show­times.

Che­ung (with hat) and Chung (in dress) both play dual roles in the movie. — Hand­out

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