That 2018 Taiwanese film about a cursed hanging rope has a sequel, “The Rope Curse 2,” and a whole lot more plot and ritual, and many many more characters, although a couple are holdovers from the original.
Do you need to see the first film to make sense of the second? I’d hate to put you through that, and this is such over-plotted nonsense that virtually nothing could render it sensible.
The new wrinkle this time — the “cursed” rope has a Thai Demon origin, a demon favored by “Thai drug dealers,” we’re told.
So “Stay off drugs, kids,” and in Taiwan, “Beware those Thai drug dealers” is implied.
That demon is contained in a gnarled, burned statuette. It’s not just the rope that strangled someone who died that could “pass on the curse” (in Mandarin with English subtitles) this time.
And it’s not just ropes that might get you. We see people strangled by necktie and seat belt, noose and whatever’s at hand.
All a drug smuggler hiding heroin in cocoanuts has to do is mutter “I have nothing to tie this up with” and “I think I saw a rope around here somewhere” and damn, the curse is passed on again.
Channel Gray Bear and the live streaming “supernatural hunters” of the first film weigh in, with their eyes on a new “hot psychic (Wilson Hsu) who is extra sensitive to ghostly presences, and afraid of most everything.
Masters of Taoism (Bor Jeng Chen returns) figure into the plot. One running gag is the notion that elected officials summon Taoist priests to “purify” a location or rope, “lift the curse” and that they pay the priests for doing it. There are all these elaborate ceremonies, face-painting rituals, masks and costumes and exorcism dances and parades.
And a prosecutor who stalks in at one point takes the audience’s side when he announces “What a scam.”
Only it isn’t. Assorted “masters” try to stop the spreading, deadly curse — a hanging spree that rips through first the drug dealers, then others in this corner of suburban Taiwan. When one master is possessed (eyes turn blood red), the next master takes on the quest.
Kang Sheng Lee plays the master Miss Teen Hot Psychic (Hey, THEY named her, not me.) turns to as she’s haunted by visions of her dead parents and struggles to save her raging, guilt-ridden and finally possessed and ready to end-it-all Aunt (Vera Chen).
“Are we going to be afraid for a lifetime,” Master Huo-ge asks the girl, Jiachen, “or face this bravely?”
Take a guess which way she’s leaning.
The acting varies between realistically chilling and over-the-top hysterical. The tone is spooky, but never more than that.
This thing is all over the place, and while the violent ends are creative, they lack logic and order after a while. “Rope Curse 2” starts out making little sense, and makes none at all by the time the credits roll.
Maybe “Rope Curse 3” will tidy that up.
MPA Rating: TV-MA, graphic violence
Cast: Wilson Hsu, Kang Sheng Lee, Bor Jeng Chen and Vera Chen
Credits: Directed by Shih-Han Liao, script by Tzu-Ming Ma. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:44