Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Haunted Cop Shop – review

Director: Jeffrey Lau

Release date: 1987

Contains spoilers

When it comes to Hong Kong movies, especially from the 80s and 90s, many of them contained a comedic element, however some seemed played simply for laughs. Honestly, as I started watching this it seemed as though it was just a comedic film. The principle characters, Macky Kim (Jacky Cheung) and Chiu (Ricky Hui), seemed your atypical comedy foils.

It was a little bit of a shock, therefore, when the gore levels suddenly ramped up… a welcome shock but… I am getting ahead of myself.

Chiu and Macky Kim
It begins with cops looking out at a priest and a joke being made by Millie (Shut-Ma Yin) that Chief Shun would refuse him charity. Said Chief recognises him as an ex-cop and the priest says that to levitate above worldly concerns he has come to warn the Chief (whom he hated when a cop). Firstly, after midnight 7 days hence, he should not let a woman in pink enter the police station and he should refrain from course language. This leads to some course language and a ball hits him, slightly cutting him. He asks Macky Kim what day it is in 7 days – it is the hungry ghost festival.

General Issie
On the day of the festival the cops have captured the notorious thief Ming (Billy Lau). Dressing up as a headless ghost they scare the thief into revealing where he hid the diamond encrusted crucifix he had stolen (and hidden in a false shoe sole). Shun isn’t happy with the shenanigans and sends them to burn offerings for the ghosts – leading to them explaining to Millie that the police station used to be a clubhouse for the Japanese during the occupation and many ritually killed themselves at the end of the war. Ming meanwhile has been let out of his cell by a female ghost in pink and lured into the spectral clubhouse. He loses a rigged game of mahjong and has to take General Issei back to the mortal realm.

Ming in the sun
Issei is a vampire and he feeds on Ming, turning him into a vampire also. Micky Kim and Chiu re-arrest him, not believing that he is a vampire, and question him. Over and over he insists that he is now a ghost until they decide, given it has passed dawn, to see if he turns to ashes in sunlight. Unfortunately for them, he does. Now no one believes that he is dead and they think the two let him escape.

cattle barn vampire
They end up staking out a cattle barn (come slaughter-house, it seems) as there has been reports of vampires there. They find themselves surrounded by a veritable horde and start pretending to be vampires to survive. They fake drinking blood but the vampires bring them buckets of the stuff until a doctor dressed as a vampire comes in and they are rounded up – they are all inmates of a local asylum.

a vampire rises behind Fanny
This leads to the two men (who are briefly incarcerated in the asylum) transferred to a new commander, Fanny Ho (Kitty Chan). After an overlong and distasteful joke about them cooking the station’s dog in order that they can make her eat dog meat and lower her luck, just so she can see ghosts too, they are called to the morgue as a woman has been murdered by exsanguination. They suggest that she will rise a vampire and Fanny doesn’t believe them. However, they are proved correct. Now the three have to prove that vampires exist and hunt down Issei.

losing an arm
I mentioned that it gets rather gory and eventually they meet an exorcist. He disposes of two recently turned motorcycle cops and is fighting the woman from the hospital (whose face quickly becomes corrupted, I noted) when Issei appears. He is much more powerful and pulls the exorcists arm off.

Fearless vampire killers
Lore wise we have already mentioned sunlight and the effect that has. There is a moment almost lifted from the Fearless Vampire Killers with Fanny and Macky Kim fumbling with a stake as Chiu is stuck in a window (at first purposefully faking to get out of facing the vampire, but later actually stuck and in peril) – however, it is not sunset but an eclipse that nearly does for them.

Pants on head
We see that the vampires do not cast reflections – a shocked Chief Shun then mentions Sammo Hung and Lam Ching-Ying, wondering if they are around, and the lengths Hong Kong movies will go to, even employing real ghosts. We also get an odd protective charm in the form of wearing underwear on your head – this is clearly more on the comedy side!

pierced by coffin nails
Issei has control over fire it seems. A new killing technique, for powerful vampires such as Issei, is to get seven coffin nails and to pierce the vampire with them – the seventh going through the heart. In the subtitles the words ghost, vampire and ghoul seem interchangeable.

Despite some of the more excessive comedy moments, which seemed to go on for some time, this was actually a fine little movie. The more aggressive gore was a welcome addition to the movie offering a darker edge. 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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