Thursday, October 18, 2007

Mr. Vampire (1985, Hong Kong)

Once upon a time flicks like this were incredibly hard to get hold of but now, at least here in Berlin, you can borrow them from your local library. And you know what? You should, too.
Director Ricky Lau started a whole franchise of Mr Vampire films with this baby, and while
I don't know how good the other ones are, this one is great! It is without a doubt one of my favorite Hong Kong (semi-) obscure, old-school costumer, right up there with Yuen Woo Ping’s Miracle Fighters from 1982; and just like Miracle Fighters, Mr. Vampireor Geung si sin sangas, as it is called in Chineseis almost too weird to accurately describe. Hong Kong horror comedies like this have so little relationship to western sensibilities, be it in regard to horror, comedy, acting or even logical progression of a plot, that to coherently describe the movie let alone just the plot would only make films like this one sound unwatchable—when they are actually anything but.
Starring a variety of familiar Hong Kong assembly-line faces, Mr. Vampire is a slightly infantile and weird but successfully entertaining combination of slapstick, horror, romance and suspense. Full of (virtually) unstoppable hopping vampires and
incompetent human heroes, though the story itself is full of inconsistencies and illogical plot twists the film leaves the viewer behind laughing on the floor as it chugs along full speed ahead.
In brief, the film is about a vampire granddad that comes back and tries to destroy his family. The local mortician/magician and his two idiot helpers (nephews?) set out to stop the steadily decaying vampire and, as might logically be expected when fighting hopping vampires, they have to face a variety of other problems along the way—including an undead uncle of the main babe, being arrested for murder, a horny ghost, the infection of one helper by (and gradual transformation into) a vampire, dishonest rice dealers and so forth. The big showdown at the end might be a bit too long, but altogether this film is fabulous video fodder and definitely deserves an even bigger reputation than it has finally begun to get. (Actually, a few years ago, it didn't even have one.)
Like most Hong Kong "horror films" of its time and ilk, the blood
and guts are remarkable low, but there are a few unobtrusive scenes of animal mutilation that might be slightly tasteless for most animal-loving westerners. The fight scenes, while well choreographed and thought out, are so slapstick in nature that it is obvious they are meant less to be serious than to keep the viewer laughing—which they do.
A true gem with few chills but many thrills, Mr. Vampire is good fun for the whole family. Get it now.

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