ICFIFC: Seventh Moon (2008)

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

ICFIFC: Seventh Moon (2008)

Qixi Festival is a Chinese festival that celebrates the annual meeting of the cowherd and weaver girl in Chinese mythology.  It falls on the seventh day of the 7th month on the Chinese calendar.  It is sometimes called the Double Seventh Festival, the Chinese Valentine's Day, or the Magpie Festival.  This is an important festival, especially for young girls.

The festival originated from the romantic legend of two lovers, Zhinü and Niulang, who were the weaver maid and the cowherd, respectively.  The tale of The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd has been celebrated in the Qixi Festival since the Han Dynasty.  The earliest-known reference to this famous myth dates back to over 2600 years ago, which was told in a poem from the Classic of Poetry.  The festival inspired Tanabata in Japan and Chilseok in Korea.

The general tale is about a love story between Zhinu (the weaver girl, symbolizing Vega) and Niulang (the cowherd, symbolizing Altair).  Their love was not allowed, thus they were banished to opposite sides of the Silver River (symbolizing the Milky Way).  Once a year, on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month, a flock of magpies would form a bridge to reunite the lovers for one day.  There are many variations of the story.  A variation follows:

A young cowherd, hence Niulang, came across a beautiful girl--Zhinü, the seventh daughter of the Goddess, who had just escaped from boring heaven to look for fun.  Zhinü soon fell in love with Niulang, and they got married without the knowledge of the Goddess.  Zhinü proved to be a wonderful wife, and Niulang to be a good husband. They lived happily and had two children.  But the Goddess of Heaven1 (or in some versions, Zhinü's mother) found out that Zhinü, a fairy girl, had married a mere mortal.  The Goddess was furious and ordered Zhinü to return to heaven.  (Alternatively, the Goddess forced the fairy back to her former duty of weaving colorful clouds, a task she neglected while living on earth with a mortal.)  On Earth, Niulang was very upset that his wife had disappeared. Suddenly, his ox began to talk, telling him that if he killed it and put on its hide, he would be able to go up to Heaven to find his wife.  Crying bitterly, he killed the ox, put on the skin, and carried his two beloved children off to Heaven to find Zhinü.  The Goddess discovered this and was very angry.  Taking out her hairpin, the Goddess scratched a wide river in the sky to separate the two lovers forever, thus forming the Milky Way between Altair and Vega.  Zhinü must sit forever on one side of the river, sadly weaving on her loom, while Niulang watches her from afar while taking care of their two children (his flanking stars β and γ Aquilae or by their Chinese names Hè Gu 1 and Hè Gu 3).  But once a year all the magpies in the world would take pity on them and fly up into heaven to form a bridge over the star Deneb in the Cygnus constellation so the lovers may be together for a single night, which is the seventh night of the seventh moon.

Not only is that a great story it’s very romantic.  Now you might be wondering why I put a tale from Chinese Mythology in an article about independent horror and sci-fi movies I happen across.  Brace yourselves and make numerous references to the about paragraphs, the similarities are astounding.

Seventh Moon (2008)

  • Genre: Horror – Thriller
  • Directed: Eduardo Sánchez
  • Produced:
    • Chen On Chu 
    • Matt Compton 
    • Robin Cowie 
    • Bob Eick 
    • Gregg Hale 
    • Ann Lu
  • Written:
    • Jamie Nash 
    • Eduardo Sánchez
  • Starring: Dennis Chan, Tim Chiou, Amy Smart
  • Music:
    • Tony Cora 
    • Kent Sparling
  • Cinematography: Wah-Chuen Lam
  • Editing:
    • Michael Cronin 
    • Johnny Rice
  • Studio: Haxan Films
  • Distributed:
    • Ghosthouse Underground  
    • Paradiso Home Entertainment  
    • Rok Americas  
    • Seventh Moon Partners  
    • Shochiku Home Video
  • Rated:
  • Release Date: 20 September 2008 (USA)
  • Running Time: 87 minutes
  • Country: United States
  • Language: English

Seventh Moon is a 2008 American horror film written by Eduardo Sánchez and Jamie Nash, and directed by Eduardo Sánchez, who is most famous for co-directing and writing the 1999 psychological horror “The Blair Witch Project” with Daniel Myrick.  Part of Robert Tapert's Ghost House Underground DVD series, the film is based on the Chinese legend that on the full moon of the seventh lunar month, the gates of hell open and the dead can enter the realm of the living.

Melissa and Yul, Americans honeymooning in China, come across the exotic 'Hungry Ghost' festival.  When night falls, the couple end up in a remote village, and don't know where they are.  Plunged into an ancient custom they cannot comprehend, the couple must find a way to survive the night of the Seventh Moon.

In accordance with the Chinese Myth, on the full moon of the seventh lunar month, the gates of hell open and the spirits of the dead are freed to roam among the living.  Melissa and her husband Yul are spending their honeymoon in the month of the ghosts in China, where they intend to visit his relatives.  They participate in the Senwun (Ghost Festival) during the day where they drink and celebrate.  Then their driver Ping heads to Anxian2 when the nights falls.  A couple of hours later, Ping parks his car and tells them that he is lost.  He asks the couple to wait for him in his car while he asks for directions in a small village in the countryside.  One hour later, Melissa and Yul decide to seek out Ping in the village, and they see the houses closed with live offering and the locals saying something in Cantonese.  Yul does not understand what they are saying and the couple returns to the car and drive away trying to find the way back to the city.  They then meet a stranger, Wei, wounded on the road and Melissa decides to help the man.  They are attacked by creepy creatures and they discover that the spirits of the dead are hunting the living.  Melissa and Yul try to find a way to protect themselves and survive the hellish night.

The film was originally released on September 20, 2008 at the Austin Fantastic Fest.  It was released on DVD October 6, 2009.  Based on just two reviews, review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that the film has a rating average of 4.9 out of 10.  The more favorable of the two reviews, from Steve Barton at Dread Central, stated that "Seventh Moon is a badass and at times downright chilling little movie that deserves its rightful place in your home video collection."  By contrast, David Nusair at Reelfilm felt that "Seventh Moon ultimately comes off as a missed opportunity that squanders the relatively promising nature of its setup."  Elsewhere, genre critics were enthusiastic, with Film School Rejects claiming that the film was "what I Am Legend would have been without CGI. That’s a good thing."  Brett Cullum of DVD Verdict called it "an inventive horror flick that re-imagines the Asian ghost genre one more time."

Michael Nelson over at Monster.Movie.TV wants to know “how the hell you read a myth about how even death can’t separate a couple when their love is true, and think…Hmm, Zombies!  This isn’t even my cultural heritage and I feel offended at what you did to the mythology.”  Guess my standards are more lofty since all I saw was yet another low budget zombie movie, from this point forward abbreviated to simply “YALBZM” (Pronounced Y’all Booz’em).

 

 

Notes:

1. Xi Wangmu (literally "Queen Mother of the West") is a Chinese goddess known from the ancient times.  The first historical information on her can be traced back to oracle bone inscriptions of the fifteenth century BCE that record sacrifices to a "Western Mother".  Even though these inscriptions illustrate that she predates organized Taoism, she is most often associated with Taoism.  From her name alone some of her most important characteristics are revealed: she is royal, female, and is associated with the west.  The growing popularity of the Queen Mother of the West, as well as the beliefs that she was the dispenser of prosperity, longevity, and eternal bliss took place during the second century BCE when the northern and western parts of China were able to be better known because of the opening of the Silk Routes.

2. An County or Anxian is a county under the administration of Mianyang City, in northeastern Sichuan province, China.  It has an area of 1,404 square kilometers (542 sq mi) and a population of 500,000.

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