Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Vampire Vs Vampire – review

Director: Lam Ching Ying

Release Date: 1989

Contains spoilers

On the surface Vampire Vs Vampire is just one of many Hong Kong vampire movies. It does have a couple of factors that many do not however, firstly in the fact that the star of the show Lam Ching Ying also directed the film and that it crosses Chinese and Western vampire lore.

Of course, we have already reviewed one film that did that, Exorcist Master, which was some four years after this movie. However I think, lore wise, Exorcist Master did it better and was more clever in its premise.

We start off with an eclipse of the moon, and the pupils of One-Eyebrow Priest (Lam Ching Ying), Hoh (Siu-hou Chin) and Fong (Fong Liu), have to ensure that the moonlight does not touch the jars as it will cause the spirits to become restless – a little lore that vaguely resembled, probably accidentally, that first used in The Vampyre. One of the jars breaks slightly and some ectoplasmic ooze (with teeth) tries unsuccessfully to bite the pupils.

They realise that the vampire stored is probably being affected by the moon and get upstairs as the coffin is smoking. There is a fight with the coffin sequence and then they realise that the vampire has escaped. They look around and spot him and he is a child kyonsi. This leads to a slapstick sequence trying to capture him – complete with slapstick sound effects.

Eventually One-Eyebrow Priest comes in and realises that there is a green glow to the vampire’s eyes. Using a little Taoist ritual he gets the child under control. Interestingly the child seems to be able to shrug off prayer scrolls using his own cartoon variants stored in his hat.

A man interrupts with a ghost problem and they go help him fix it within a long sequence that adds little to the film and seems to be an excuse for some wire work and special effects (though the cartoon effects aren’t that special). Be that as it may, it is also clear that having a female ghost involved is almost a pre-requisite to these films, this one has two as we shall see.

Crux of the problem is that One-Eyebrow Priest is asked to work out why misfortune is hitting the village and it seems to be a problem with the water. Bats are noticed and the General (Billy Lau) – who appears to be the law – wants to burn down the foreign temple – a catholic church being rebuilt by nuns – as he believes it the source of the bats.

One-Eyebrow Priest manages to get into a locked meditation room in the church and discovers garlic and the skeleton of the previous priest. His partner priest is missing. The other priest is our vampire, currently buried and staked but not out for the count. He is manipulating the bats and causes the villagers to dig up his body when digging for a new water supply.

He is revived through the General's greed and soon One-Eyebrow Priest is fighting a creature who seems impervious to his Taoist ways.

The Vampire vs Vampire aspect of this seems to be in the fact that the child kyonsi helps One-Eyebrow Priest in his task. I mentioned there was another ghost and it appears, at first, to be a sub-story about the murder of a prostitute – one that seemed superfluous until we realise it was a device to get the priest near the vampire and discover what is going on.

Whilst the Catholic vampire is immune to Taoist ways he reacts much like a standard Western vampire. He had been staked, fire will kill and sunlight burns. He has control over bats – though he cannot turn into one. The reason exorcist master works better than this is because they don’t have to have the two religions working together in order to defeat the vampire – One-Eyebrow Priest quickly works out how to fight the creature.

Lam Ching Ying is always a pleasure to watch but he does not seem as good in this as perhaps other movies. I suspect he was curtailed slightly by the task of directing as well as starring – that isn’t to say that his performance is bad, just not as rounded as it could be.

The comedy is a little obtrusive in this, a lot more reliant on slapstick than it really should be.

All in all this is above average, but it isn’t the best Hong Kong vampire flick I’ve seen. 5.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.


Anonymous said...


I downloaded the video playet you recommended to me in your comment and it is very good indeed. I had been having lots of issues with capturing screenshots, but so far with this program I ahve had no trouble. I did some expreiments with Countess Dracula and saved so many I had to use a batch converter to change the png files to jpeg.

I see you really like HK films. So do I and even though I live in China they are hard to find on the mainland and usually not subbed in English. They are out there of course, but the stores here are not organized and it is tough to keep searching.

The way you review your films is in a narrative sryle and the screenshots to the side give it a sort of comic book effect. I can sort of enjoy the film in this style even though I have never seen it.


Taliesin_ttlg said...

cheers Bill, glad you enjoy the style and very glad the media player is working out. My onloy issue with it is capturing in png (thus the need to covert) but it is such a small quibble all told.

I do like HK films, in fact one favourite of mine (non-vampiric) is Chinese Ghost Story - classic HK film.

All the best.