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A Newbie’s Guide to Sci-Fi Horror Classics [Issue 4]

Happy New Year film friends! Although 2020 was a difficult year and we’re glad it’s over, the issues of the world continue. When you need a self-care break from fighting the good fight of whatever cause you are passionate about, allow me to invite you to a genre-bending action-comedy by famous horror director John Carpenter. Additionally, if you didn’t get enough of that sexy Santa last month from watching Netflix’s The Christmas Chronicles and The Christmas Chronicles: Part 2, you can view him about 35 years younger in this fun flick. This month’s issue is Big Trouble in Little China (1986).

Trucker Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) is gambling in San Francisco’s Chinatown with his friend Wang Chi (Dennis Dun), when he agrees to pick up Wang’s beautiful green-eyed fiancé at the airport. While at the luggage claim, Wang’s fiancé Miao Yin (Suzee Pai) is kidnapped by the street gang called “Lords of Death”. Jack and Wang follow and adventure ensues. They get caught in a street battle between the group Chang Sing and magicians called “The Three Storms” (Rain, Thunder, Lightning). The Three Storms serve a powerful sorcerer, Lo Pan, who is over 2,000 years old and needs a wife with green eyes to return him to mortality. Yes, you read all that correctly. We’re quickly thrust into a 1980s action film with a magical twist.

Jack and Wang regroup with lawyer Gracie Law (Kim Cattrall), who witnessed the kidnapping, and Egg Shen (Victor Wong), who has connections with Chinatown black magic. They gather a team of people and plot an infiltration of Lo Pan’s underground universe to retrieve Miao Yin. Gracie happens to have green eyes as well and gets caught by a monster that takes her to Lo Pan. The sorcerer then plans to marry both green-eyed women but kill one to please the dark magic emperor. As the rescue is attempted, a martial arts battle arises for a grand ending.

This film has many wonderful qualities. Similar to my previous issues of A Newbie’s Guide to Sci-Fi Horror Classics, this one has delightful practical effects. The monster that takes Gracie is a work of art and there is a floating head guardian with at least 20 eyeballs. Egg explains, “What it sees, Lo Pan knows”. I’ll stop there before spoiling other practical effect moments of impact. And if we learned anything about John Carpenter from the Halloween franchise, it’s that he can make a mean soundtrack, and this score does a bang up job. Finally, what I think we all need and can find in this film is comic relief. The comedic timing of many subtle jokes was unexpected, maybe a little ‘80s cheesy, and I’m here for it. 

My goal this month is to share this flick that allows us to escape, travel back in time to watch Kurt Russell get into trouble and ultimately feel refreshed to take on the future. Let this issue be a reminder to take care of ourselves with movie medicine among other healthy alternatives. Support your local theatres and stages if you have the ability to do so. And after you’re well rested, get into some good trouble in whatever neighborhood you’re in, for the benefit of human-kind as we start this 2021 year.

This article was written by a guest contributor

Catherine Ann

Catherine became a member of the Chicago-based Music Box Theatre, which opened up her world to unexpected interests in horror and obscure classics, particularly ones with practical effects. She attended the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival and was fully captivated by the film community.
Follow her on Instagram | Letterboxd

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