“Love, Work and Other Demons” (2016): Female Fighter Waits Tables and Wards Off Devils


Joanna (Akemi Look) works two jobs: she’s a waitress at her father Harry’s (George Cheung) Chinese restaurant by day and a demon hunter after hours. Director Gorby Mufan Shih crafts a fun, fast-paced action comedy short with supernatural overtones in Love, Work and  Other Demons. Based on Joanna’s double life, the short sets the stage for many more adventures in that world.

Joanna (AKA The Badass) has a temper that can reach the boiling point at either job, and it doesn’t help her that the ghosts of her grandfather and great-grandfather – who drop in regularly for family mahjong  time – tease her about what guys like in women. When not engaging in ancestral gambling time, she takes her stress out on rude customers until it’s time for her real job.

Love Work Dad approves cropped
Harry (George Cheung) does his best to try to get his daughter Joanna (Akemi Look) to settle in with the family’s Chinese restaurant and give up her demon-killing ways in Love, Work and  Other Demons.

Armed with a sword, her highly refined martial arts skills, and paper talismans, Joanna keeps her city safe from otherworldly baddies who attack random, defenseless victims. But what about the word “love” in the short film’s title? Joanna is torn about matters of the heart but Ryan (Matt Musgrove), a doctor who regularly dines at her restaurant, may help her see things differently – unless flirtatious waitress Samantha (London Vale) has something to say about it.

Love Work Turtle cropped
This turtle demon is just one of the many entities that Joanna must defeat to protect her city.

Love, Work and  Other Demons is intended to be fun and funny rather than focusing on the terrifying aspects of its title beasts. The demonic creatures called Nightmare Bugs are shown to be violent but not in a graphically gory manner, though certainly Joanna and her foes get banged up and bloodied in their encounters. The ghosts on display are of the happy ancestral variety, not the evil entities often shown in horror films. There is another demon on hand but I won’t describe it because it would take us into spoiler territory.

Akemi Look is fantastic as Joanna, a young woman who is torn between many decisions, such as following her vision to continue slaying demons or giving in to her father’s wishes to settle down; keeping true to her personality or adapting it to attract a boyfriend; and so on. Look shows a wide range of emotions in her portrayal and pulls them all off stunningly, deftly balancing comic and dramatic scenes, as well as showing off marvelous physical skills in her fight scenes. She is a star in the making and a blast to watch, and this short is a great showcase for her.

Akemi Look shines as Joanna,  showing fine dramatic and comic acting skills along with her action prowess.

The rest of the cast proves up to the task, too, especially big-screen and small-screen veteran George Cheung as Joanna’s wise and wise-cracking father Harry. This character provides a bridge between the foundations set by the family’s Chinese American ancestors and the modern world, providing some of Love, Work and  Other Demon’s most touching moments. Craig Ng as great grandfather Feng Lam and Ping Wu as grandfather  Wei Lam provide some comic moments ranging from bright to a bit broad. Matt Musgrove brings a goofy charm to his love-interest character, while London Vale also gets to stretch in her role.

Love, Work and  Other Demons is chock full of visual cartoon-like and comic-book-style visual flourishes, with plenty of cartoonish sound effects, as well. This is a rather fitting choice by Gorby Mufan Shih – who cowrote the energetic screenplay with Sam Boyer –  as the short has an animated-show-come-to-life vibe, adding to the fun of the proceedings.

Nightmare Bugs are on the loose; is Joanna powerful enough to stop them?

The production values for Love, Work and  Other Demons are all high quality and the special effects are admirable. The fight choreography is crackerjack and Joseph Varner’s sharp editing makes these sequences feel exciting. The practical makeup effects for all of the supernatural entities are well done. Tao Liu‘s  score ranges from power chords to disco funk and beyond, always adding to what’s taking place onscreen.

Great grandfather Feng Lam (Craig Ng, left) and grandfather Wei Lam (Ping Wu, right) drop by for mahjong and mirth while discussing Joanna’s troubles with Harry.

Most importantly, Love, Work and  Other Demons (www.demonsnevertip.com) has a huge heart. It is obvious that a lot of care and drive went into making this film. Although the short is screening at film festivals, it is also meant to serve as a television series pilot. Gorby Mufan Shih has created a winner here, and I would be thrilled to see more of his vision, this world, this cast, and these characters.    

Love, Work  and  Other Demons: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Love Wrok Demons poster

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.