I think it’s safe to say that, without the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West, the world of weird Taiwanese fantasy martial arts films would be far less rich. The Demons in the Flame Mountain is an interesting example of a movie that employs characters and situations from that 16th century tale, but without incorporating the well known band of travelers at its center. Indeed, Monk Xuanzang, the Monkey King, Pigsy and the rest appear here by reference only, surrendering the spotlight so that some lesser characters might step to the front of the stage. For this reason, the movie might be termed less an adaptation of Journey than it is a spin-off of it.
Anyone who’s watched enough of these movies won’t be surprised to learn that Red Boy, who fought against Xuanzang and his disciples in the novel, is in fact played by a young woman, the actress Au-Yeung Ling-Lung. When we catch up with the character, we find that he has renounced his demon ways and is now a disciple of Guanyin, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. In the grand tradition of low budget Taiwanese fantasy movies, Guanyin is depicted as having an omnipresent cartoon aura over her head and residing in a minimalist set that is made up almost entirely of machine generated fog and colored lighting.
When Red Boy comes to Guanyin in this setting, it is to report that all is not well in the worldly world. It seems that an imposter posing as Red Boy has been causing trouble in the villages around the mountain of pure flame known, appropriately, as Flame Mountain (said mountain being one of the unfortunate results of the mischievous tear that got the Monkey King banished from Heaven in the first place). Gaunyin instructs Red Boy to head down and clear his name.