She Starts the Fire (1992) poster

She Starts the Fire (1992)


(Pen Hou Nu Lang)

Hong Kong. 1992.


Director/Screenplay – Wong Jing.


John Ching (Charlie Tiu), Chingmy Yau (Wendy), Carol ‘Do Do’ Cheng (Big Beer)


Charlie Tiu falls in love the beautiful Wendy. However, she has been bewitched by a wizard as a child and has the ability to bring curses about simply by speaking them, as well as to start fires when she gets aroused. Charlie and Wendy are beset by crime kingpin Brother Cannon who desires Wendy and Wendy’s conniving aunt Big Beer who desires to exploit Wendy for money as a psychic.

This absurd, energetic Hong Kong caper seems like a comedic take on Firestarter (1984). The idea has been played out in a number of other films – the awful Spontaneous Combustion (1990) and the Japanese Cross Fire/Pyrokinesis (2000), the best treatment of the subject. There has also been a number of tv treatments with The X Files episode Fire (1993), the Smallville episode Plastique (2008) and the Fringe episode The Road Not Taken (2009).

More popular have been the number of films that have played pyrokinesis themes as comedy, which have included the delightfully nonsensical Nice Girls Don’t Explode (1987), Pyrates (1991), and Wilder Napalm (1993). She Starts the Fire is one entry that sits amid comedy treatments.

Chingmy Yau as the firestarting Wendy in She Starts the Fire (1992)
Chingmy Yau as the firestarting Wendy

There is a silliness to She Starts the Fire that frequently verges on delirium, something the jaunty score seems determined to keep up whenever the comedy is in danger of flagging. Unfortunately, the film suffers many of the problems that Hong Kong films do, which is a frequent disregard for the necessity for plot. The film almost completely lacks anything remotely resembling narrative and seems to sprawl from one set-piece to the next at times without the slightest connection.

Trailer here

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