Saturday, April 18, 2009

Vampire Settle on Police Camp – review

dvdDirector: Chi-Hwa Chen

Release date: 1990

Contains spoilers

As titles go the English version of Yi Mei Dao Gu is pretty much literally correct. The action in this Hong Kong flick takes place in a police training camp – start thinking Police Academy without the same intellectual depth of humour! Whether or not these are actually vampires is another question. I was almost tempted to go down the ‘Vamp or Not?’ line but, all things being fair, they are just about vampires or vampire ghosts – not that we see a feed.

Things begin with police instructor Chao (Charlie Ho) dreaming. In his dream he is attacked by a family of ghosts, Grandfather, father, mother and child. It seems their dream assaults are getting stronger, he says as he awakens. Outside his home the ghosts appear and try to enter but the house is warded.

like a standard child kyonsiThe child, who dresses in traditional funeral garb that we associate with kyonsi, stands above some recruits who are playing cards and then starts fighting with them, stealing their rifle. All Hell breaks loose across the campus as the ghosts start attacking people – but strangely no-one is seriously hurt. The inspector, Chan (Eddy Ko), is possessed at one point.

mother rips her face offNow, whilst these act like ghosts, we see the mother rip her face open and then move towards a recruit with fangs out and there does seem to be a lot of fang appearance. The ghosts succeed in their mission – they scare off all the recruits and this is particularly an issue as the police need more members to guard Vietnamese refugee camps.

Chao is troubled by his karmaChao goes to see a priest who does a past life regression with him. He had been a chicken and a prostitute in two of his lives but the problem is due to a life when he was a man in power who stole the family’s money, framed them and had them killed. They harboured a resentment and this has made them ‘hard ghosts’ who will drag Chao’s reincarnated self to Hell in order to get the chance to be reborn.

To combat this they set up a special recruit taskforce – VSOP, later we hear that VSOP fight vampires which means ghosts, an awkward translation perhaps and not useful in discerning exactly what these were meant to be. The recruits were all born in the year of the Dragon, an auspicious sign, unfortunately it means they draw in the biggest bunch of losers they can. They also do not know that their purpose is to fight the ghosts.

sneak up and scare themMost of the standard kyonsi rules do not seem to apply here and, curiously, we have an attempt to ward them by cross and the use of garlic to keep them at bay – most definitely Western influences. However these are not Western vampires either. They are a hybrid and, interestingly, whilst they try and scare the students they won’t harm anyone as that would affect their own karma. The only really traditional kyonsi rule that seems to be in place is the idea of holding one’s breath to avoid being seen by the vampire.

dad of the vampire-ghostsThis is a poor film, but an unusual one. Generally unfunny – with a rather poor performance by Sandra Ng Kwan Ye as the instructor Madam Lee, plus the most cheesy synth soundtrack I’ve heard for some time. 2 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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