Monday, June 15, 2009

Shaolin Vs Vampire – review

dvdRelease Date: Unknown

Director: Unknown

Contains spoilers

This is a ‘lost’ Gordon Liu film released on DVD by Rarescope and the reason I have put unknown re the date is because neither Wikipedia or imdb – at time of review – listed this film. I did spot somewhere that it was 1980 and yet the film is set in 1988, and it seemed unusual for it to be set 8 years in the future. The DVD transfer is best described as poor.

That said it is a kyonsi based movie and if the blurb is to believed it is a Hong Kong movie that was made for the Japanese market. Now the blurb manages to get the plot synopsis wrong and quotes the language as mandarin but I tend to believe it was for the Japanese market. Why? Well the reason I mention the language is because, whilst I do not know Mandarin, Cantonese or Japanese, I do know that domo arigato is Japanese (for thank you very much) and thus the language spoken in film must have been Japanese (at times anyway). There is also a Japanese character in film, as the nationality of the character is unimportant to the plot, one suspects she was added for the intended market.

a kyonsi in the darkAccording to the subtitles the actual title of the film was “Baby Vampire vs The Invincible Kung Fu Devil Gang” and, as things begin, we see a drunken man stumbling through the woods. A Kyonsi follows him and then, it seems, this is all a TV fantasy as we see a woman watching TV and getting scared. There is a knock at the door, the drunken man is there and the kyonsi is behind him.

Daiyu (Gordon Liu) arrives at the village on his bicycle and the talk is all of ghosts. Whilst he is sceptical another man, Doshi, agrees that the place is a haven for vampires. Daiyu has no time for the man, bashing him with his bike. Meanwhile the village kids are playing hunters versus vampires and another group pretend to film the action. It is being ‘directed’ by a young girl named Bee. Daiyu picks her up as she is his daughter.

Gordon Liu as DaiyuAt home is Jen, Daiyu’s wife. She has a letter for him from Japan. It seems that one of his friends over there will be sending a Japanese girl, Yuki, to learn kung fu from Daiyu. In the meantime there is a movie shooting nearby and Daiyu is in the film. Bee goes to the set with him. Bee wanders from the set and starts playing near a grave. Now the lore here is a little odd. We see hands emerge from the grave and then the kyonsi appears. However he seems to be both physical and spiritual – leaving his body in the grave (there is an attempt to dig it up later), able to vanish and reappear like a ghost but able to physically interact with the world. He is a child named Lee Wonho.

Daiyu has to do a double somersault stunt and, unbeknown to himself, it goes wrong but Lee secretly intervenes and saves the man. When Daiyu and Bee go home her backpack feels heavier – the kyonsi is sleeping in there. She starts seeing him at the window.

fake kyonsiThe next night Bee goes out to play and sees two adult kyonsi in the woods. Suddenly they take a break and have a cigarette – they are fakes. Lee goes and spooks them. They run through the woods to where Doshi is holding an exorcism. Bee reveals that they are fakes and Doshi is going to attack her when Daiyu intervenes. The next day Doshi and the village elder go to see a Taoist master – they are plotting to scare the villagers away for money (presumably a developer wants the land) and they ask for help. The decision is to take care of the meddling Bee first.

Lee's clothes look like a clown outfitBee and Lee, meanwhile, have formally met and become friends. She creates him clothes, of a none funereal type, by making them in paper and burning them. He was on trip from the Land of the Dead as it was Summer Break but got separated from his fellows and cannot return until a certain date. We discover that he cannot go out into the sun (he will melt) unless Bee makes him a hat of black hemp that will cover his whole body.

Bee goes out to play with her friends – leaving Lee stranded due to the sun. The Taoist decides to strike and lures her into a barn with an animated backpack. She is magically locked in and the building sets on fire. Her friends go for help and her mom comes a running. Lee also hears and dons a hat (that he didn’t seem to have the scene before) and rescues her. Unfortunately mom gets caught in the fire and dies. At the funeral the Taoist recognises that Bee is possessed by a vampire but on a certain day in September he can do a ritual to control him.

Yuki practices Kung FuThe centre 1/3rd of the film sees the arrival of Yuki and Daiyu’s reluctance (in his grief) to teach her. As things progress, Daiyu and Yuki meet and get used to Lee and Yuki finally persuades Daiyu to teach her. Yuki and Daiyu clearly start to fall in love. It is an interesting break in the film and nearly works. But, unfortunately, the quality of the film is such that it ends up falling flat on its face and becoming particularly boring. It ends with Bee and Lee setting up a romantic dinner for the adults, with Lee controlling the weather in order to make it even more romantic. It all falls apart as the Taoist starts his control ritual.

Summoning kyonsiLee is in pain and his funeral clothes reappear. As he doesn’t know what is going on he asks to be returned to the cemetery. The Taoist is there and is using a fetish to gain control of the child. He also summons a pair of real kyonsi to fight Daiyu. They heroes have to, eventually, beat a hasty retreat. It ends up with the Taoist having Lee, kidnapping Bee and Daiyu having to defeat him and a couple of kyonsi to set things right.

a pair of kyonsiOf course it is through this section we get our main kung fu fix. We also get a couple of bits of lore but nothing shocking. There is a holy statue that destroys the kyonsi (or repels them at least, it wasn’t too clear). There is also the lore about holding your breath to hide from the kyonsi. What was more unusual was the idea that these summoned kyonsi could turn into giant versions of the spell scrolls that normally control them – as though they were summoned from nothing by magic rather than being dead bodies drawn from the grave.

All in all, however, this was not the greatest of flicks. It tried to do some clever bits but never rose above its low budget and, probably, quickly shot nature. 2.5 out of 10. as mentioned at the head of the review there is no imdb page at time of writing.

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