By Robert St. Martin
Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 11/14/23 – Unlike many other films from Asia at this year’s Asian World Film Festival in Culver City, Wei-Hao Cheng’s newest movie Marry My Dead Body (Taiwan, 2022) is a comedy that is highly entertaining with a gay romance built in and will soon be available for viewing on Netflix. Marry My Dead Body, starring Greg Han-Hsu and Po-Hung Lin, among others, is a movie about a young cop who accidentally participates in the Chinese ghost marriage tradition. Based on this strange Chinese custom, the movie is one that acts as the perfect amalgamation of the past and the present while beseeching the audience to treat people with respect and love. The main message is simple: someone’s sexual preferences shouldn’t be a deterrent to treating them with kindness because it costs nothing to be kind. Both the protagonists have sufficient chemistry between them to keep the audience entertained in this fun-filled supernatural comedy.
The movie revolves around Wu Min-Han (played by Greg Han-Hsu), a straight and homophobic police officer who finds a red wedding envelope while investigating evidence in a drug case, only to realize that it will bind him to marry the ghost of Mao (Po-Hung Lin), a young gay man who was killed in a car accident. It is a silly high-concept movie with supernatural dramedy at heart. When the ghost of the deceased Mao comes to live with Wu as his husband, making the cop change his outlook on the world.Wu is vehemently opposed to this weird concept, all the more so because he’s picked a gay man’s envelope while he’s a raging homophobe. Wu refuses to accept the responsibility and storms off, as the old women remind him that misfortune will chase him until he says yes.
Marry My Dead Body is a highly campy, melodramatic movie with a bizarre conceit that is somehow full of many silly laughs and a few tears with some astute observations on parental relationships and friendships while at the same time being a cautionary tale of same-sex relationships in the modern era. Through comedy, this film tries to showcase and break down the prejudices towards Taiwan’s LGBTQ communities despite the country’s legalization of same-sex marriage in 2019. There is a lot of homophobic language and dramatic anger outbursts, but no real explanation for why Wu Ming-Han is so prejudiced against gay people.
As a police officer in Taiwan, Wu Ming Han get scrutinized by his commanding officer. At a gym in Taipei, Ming Han went undercover at a popular gym to arrest a drug user, almost pretending to seduce him. However, Ming Han used excessive violence and homophobic language while apprehending the perpetrator. Ming Han has received complaints for his misconduct. His boss, Hsiao Yuan (Chen-Nan Tsai), demotes him after the incident. Ming Han is annoyed by the relocation to a smaller police station. He wants to return to his old career and work on more exciting cases.
One day, Ming Han and his female partner policewoman Lin Tzu-Ching (Gingle Wang) pursue a criminal in a chaotic car chase. They leave behind a sloppy mess at the park. While policeman Wu Ming Han is cleaning up the mess, he picks up an innocuous red envelope from the ground. Suddenly, a senior woman (Man-Chiao Wang) approaches him, claiming he is now betrothed to her deceased grandson Mao. According to folklore, anyone who takes the red packet has unknowingly agreed to a “ghost marriage.” Ming Han is declared the groom to Mao, a gay man who recently died in an accident. Mao’s grandmother wants to proceed with a wedding ceremony. One of her biggest regrets is that she couldn’t help Mao get married before his sudden death. However, Ming Han dismisses her and doesn’t take this superstition seriously. She curses him, claiming that he will experience misfortune.
Nonetheless, Ming Han follows the grandmother’s instructions, which involve “sleeping” with her grandson on their wedding night. Homophobic Wu Ming-han goes through with the ceremony and soon finds himself capable of seeing his groom, Wu Ming-han has to fulfill Mao’s wishes so he can be reincarnated, which means the cop has to do cop work to determine who killed Mao in a brutal hit-and-run.
This involves infiltrating a drug ring alongside policewoman Tzu-Ching while navigating the various loose ends of Mao’s life, including his strained relationship with his father (Chung-Hua Tou) and confronting the man Chang Yung-Kang (Nien-Hsien Ma) Mao was hoping to marry while he was still alive. Ming Han is stunned when he can see Mao, a ghostly apparition who manifests himself in physical form. Ming Han reacts awfully and offends Mao with homophobic insults. The angry ghost pesters him in retaliation. Ming Han finally agrees to help Mao fulfill his last wishes so he can peacefully move on to the afterlife.
After rejecting the ghost marriage, Ming Han constantly encounters unlucky scenarios, including many freak accidents and physical injuries. Feeling disturbed, Ming Han reluctantly agrees to marry Mao’s grandson as long as that reverses the bad omen. Mao’s father disrupts the matrimonial ceremony, claiming this ghost marriage tradition is nonsense. Mao in a midnight hit-and-run was killed accidentally in the middle of the night by a local drug lord Hsaio Yuan (Cliff Cho), who crashed his car into a drunk pedestrian after making a deal in the middle of the night. Poor Mao was upset after an argument with his father and did not bother to look either way as he crossed the street. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Hsiao Yuan never reported the incident to the police and fled the scene by car. He wasn’t worried about the arrest because policewoman Lin Tzu-Ching (as we learn much later) had helped him cover up the evidence during the investigation.
Marry My Dead Body (2023) was directed by Cheng Wei-Hao is a master of crime and suspense stories, especially his horror-thriller franchise The Tag Along. This film has smashed box office records of horror movies in Taiwan for over ten years. In 2017, feature films Who Killed Cock Robin and The Tag-Along 2 were released and nominated for 8 rewards in Taiwan. Marry My Dead Body has been picked for online screening by Netflix and also was selected as Taiwan’s submission for Best International Feature Film at the 96th Academy Awards in 2024.