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 was directed by Hong Kong auteur Raymond Yip. It was said to have benefited much from China’s film censorship board’s relaxing of its “no ghost” policy, which was intended to encourage more diverse genres in domestic films in order to appeal to more discerning moviegoers.
The House That Never Dies 2, also known in Mandarin as Jing Cheng 81 Hao 2, is now showing in cinemas. Directed by Taiwanese helmer Joe Chien (Zombie Fight Club), the movie is also based on true events said to have occurred at Beijing’s most celebrated haunted mansion.
Simply known as Chaonei 81 or the Chaonei Church, the mansion is dubbed the spookiest of the “top four oriental haunted houses”. The legendary three-storey French Baroque-style mansion is located in the Chaoyangmen neighbourhood of the Dongcheng district in Beijing, China.
The release of The House That Never Dies 2 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.
In the movie, actor Julian Cheung, 45, plays a military officer named Zhang Zhisheng, while Gillian 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 in a phone interview.
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 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).