Saturday, March 10, 2007

Dating a Vampire – review


Director: Clarence Fok Yiu-leung

Release Date: 2006

Contains spoilers

This is a Hong Kong vampire movie that actually forgoes falling back on martial arts and introduces a curious mix of Western vampire lore and Chinese vampire/ghost folklore, although the results are a tad confusing and there is an over-reliance on screen flashes. The film is billed as a comedy.

The story follows Eric (Ale Fong) and Chuen (Sammy Lueng), two medical students who, with the help of Eric’s Brother Kit (Andy On), move into a set of deserted set of flats in order that they may have peace and quiet to revise for their exams. They have rented unit 999 for a couple of weeks and the flats are to be demolished in three. Kit returns to camp, he is some sort of soldier, leaving his brother with the porn obsessed Chuen.

On the first evening, having slept through the day, Chuen sends Eric to the A victimnearby village store to get a gas canister for the stove. On his way there Eric thinks he hears noises. Outside he bumps into a man burning prayer scrolls and is warned by the store owner to leave the place. He is told that something unnatural is on the 6th floor. He heads home and, on the 6th floor, a man stumbles from the balcony, calling for help and bleeding from the neck. It is here that I can explain what I meant by screen flashes. Literally the director chooses to put flashes of bright light over such scenes and it is distracting, to say the least.

Eric gets to his flat and phones the police and ambulance services. We have seen the man dragged off and by the time the police arrive there is no body and no blood. Katie, Eric, Banana and ChuenThe next day Eric and Chuen meet up with fellow students Katie (Jessica Xu) and Banana (Vonnie Lui) – okay, I didn’t know what to make of the character’s name either. Katie doesn’t believe that anything has happened but says that the two girls will study with the boys that night. Whilst they talk we see, on a TV, a psychic called Mister M (Yuen Wah), whom Katie seems to rate. We also get a full example of the humour of the film. Chuen is the comedy character and so far we have had him pawing over porn and now see that he audibly guesses the cup size of girl’s bosoms and gets himself worked up over larger ones. To be truthful the comedy fell very flat for me, it was delivered in the very over the top way that Hong Kong movies sometimes fall back on.

That evening Chuen and Banana go off and Eric begins to hear noises. InvestigatingLucy Vamps he eventually meets Jade (Miki Yeung), an innocent looking young girl. She says that she and her sisters live in apartment 666. Suddenly her sisters, Lucy (Zuki Lee) and Mary (Cynthia Ho) appear with two rough looking types. They leave Eric alone and he goes and tells Katie what has happened. Meanwhile the sisters take their men to the apartment. The apartment seems spacious, with chandeliers and couples dancing. Lucy takes her man into the backroom and vamps out.

Vampire wise we are seeing typical, fanged Western vampires but they believe that Eric and Co are on to them and something odd is mentioned. They say that drinking the blood of a good guy will allow them to go into the sun. This is expanded on later when we hear that if they drink the blood of 999 bad men and 1 good man they gain immunity to sunlight. A strange concept, and unique to this as far as I know. Eric is to be the one good man. This section is also confused as it appears that the four friends are going to go to the sister’s apartment but nothing comes of it.

Because she is worried about Eric, Katie goes to see Yuen Wah as Mister MMister M and pays him $8000 dollars to ‘investigate’ the flat and tell him there are no ghosts. This was very much like Fright Night with Mister M taking on the Peter Vincent role and Eric playing the Charlie Brewster part. They go to the sisters' flat and Mister M seems at ease until he notices that the sisters cast no reflection. He makes excuses to leave, including wanting to watch the football, which the sisters put on (Eric makes the comment that the match isn't on until the next night). They get out of the flat, dragging along a resentful Chuen who was getting on well with Mary.

Mary vampsOutside Mister M runs, telling the guys to leave the place, and Chuen heads back for Mary. She slips his pants around his ankles and vamps out, eventually biting his backside.

The following day Chuen is dragged, wrapped from head to toe in clothes, to the library where heEscaping from Chuen tries to bite a girl (and realises he is suddenly more interested in necks than breasts.) He goes home, sleeps through the day and then awakes. He has one fang and no reflection and tries to bite Eric, who is saved by Jade, who pulls Eric through a window and teleports down to the ground. The reason Chuen only has one fang is because he is only half vampire.

Miki Yeung as JadeJade tells Eric that she is a vampire but in actual fact she is more like a ghost. She died in 1962 when a man tried to rape her and then murdered her and she was buried between the two vampires, putting her under their control. She is to be married to an evil ghost. It is down to Eric, with Mister M and Kit to save her and Chuen and destroy the vampires.

The vampires are a curious hybrid of East and West. They look like Western vampires, cast no reflections and can be killed by wooden stake through the heart. Yet some of the Chinese standards hold true, they can be hurt by prayer scroll and reading of Taoist scripture and they can make an abandoned flat appear opulent. Bad nailsThey can develop long, sharp nails but they looked very false in close up – perhaps they were meant to look like long nails on decayed fingers but the fingers just looked like they had been dipped in putty. In long shot they look worse; they look like the very cheap Halloween plastic witches’ nails you can get.

To get to the land of the dead the humans have to lower body temperature – a neat idea, though it doesn’t stand up to logical scrutiny - and there is a scene in said land, at Jade’s wedding, where Eric and Mister M end up dancing with ghosts/vampires that seemed reminiscent of The Fearless Vampire Killers, though, in fairness, it didn’t have the earlier film’s punchline and the similarities were perhaps more in tone.

Bizarrely, when Kit brings the troops in and blows up a door it seems to have an impact in the land of the dead – though why this should happen was beyond me. There is some morality in that Mister M has lost his powers due to greed, but selflessly wanting to help Eric enables him to re-find his power.

The acting can be very over the top, though Eric and Jade both worked well. There was an inkling of a love story there but it became lost in the general hubbub of the film. This would have been better played straight, with perhaps a streak of black humour. The humour didn’t work too well for me in the way it was done – it was too over the top at times. This, in turn, effected character development negatively.

The soundtrack was a pleasure over the opening credits, building an ominous dread. However, during the film I can’t say I noticed it, which may, in itself, be a good thing.

check the comedy fangsThe effects sometimes worked, there was a scene of blood pouring down stairs that was very effective but they were sometimes quite shoddy. The bright, over-exposed flashes didn’t do it for me either and made me think that they were simply trying to hide the worst aspects of the sfx. I guess I should also point out, as it should be clear in the screenshot above, that we have the occasional appearance of comedy fangs – rarely a good thing.

The aspects that reminded me of other films were perhaps a little too derivative and the use of the armed forces was pointless. There was a great Hong Kong movie in here but it got severely lost on the way, using too much comedy that didn’t work for me, and leaving the film confused and ultimately quite unfulfilling. 3.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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