Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Vamp or Not? Walking the Dead

I am sure that all my regular readers will be familiar with the kyonsi (or chiang shi) – the Chinese hopping vampire. Often they are seen, in movies, with corpse herders, persons charged with leading the corpses home for burial. More often than not something goes wrong with this and one (or more) escape and become blood drinking or life sucking vampires.

The reason I looked at Walking the Dead is that it uses a similar myth premise. In this case the walker, who can cause a corpse to walk again and uses that power to get the body back, again, for burial. The film itself is a 2010 release directed by Melanie Ansley.

Lin amongst the meat
It actually starts with two little girls playing when we get that slasher film woosh of a figure passing close by (there are definitely aspects of the slasher film in this). Suddenly a remote control car appears and one of the girls, Lin (Zhou Xiao Yu), follows the car. Her friend protests but eventually follows after. The car takes Lin through a market’s maze of hanging meats but her friend backs away when confronted by the figure of a man with an axe, known in the film as the Walker (Ma Zi Jun). Lin awakes later, bound and gagged by her uncle, Ming (Con Ling Ping), but he can’t bring himself to kill her. He is caught by the Walker, after posting a letter, and the Walker takes his eyes.

Sam Voutas as Charles
Journalist Charles Palmer (Sam Voutas) is being questioned by cops over what happened in the village and the rest of the film is his story. It begins with him in a room, watching a suicide (as the film progresses we hear that he failed to check the validity of a source and it lead to the suicide of a man he did an expose on – a man who was innocent) and drinking. He gets a call from his Editor (Ted Biggs) and begs for a story. The editor is going to say no but he reveals that he has received a letter from someone called Ming who claims to have buried his niece alive. They agree it is probably a crackpot but he has 72 hours to get a story.

they look odd
He is dropped near the village – the driver refusing to get nearer – and we see a car of rowdy, beer swilling young men go past (and know they’ll come into it). As he gets to the village we know something is wrong. We see washer women but the eyes look funny, we see a butcher (Fan Wei Don), his skin has a slight greenish tint, he is unresponsive and simply chops at the same piece of meat over and over, meat that crawls with maggots. Charles can get no cell-phone reception in the village.

the bride
He gets to the hotel and without a word the receptionist leads him to a room. When he gets there she is gone but a veiled bride (Yuan Xian) sits before him. She pulls him to the bed, starts – despite protests – to tie him down and then her face is revealed to have an open welt down it as she begins to throttle him. Meanwhile a woman called Anna (Angela Tong) is accosted by the youths in the van. She runs away and gets into the hotel. She stabs the bride to rescue Charles but then tells him to be quiet. The walker enters the room but he is blind and seems to not detect Charles (Anna is hidden). When he has gone they move to leave but the receptionist grabs Charles’ legs from under the bed. Anna smashes the woman’s head to let them escape.

Angela Tong as Anna
Getting to the meat of the ‘Vamp or Not?’; Anna tells Charles about the Walker and the power to bring the dead back through the eyes. She takes him to Ming (who is her brother, the missing Lin being her daughter) and his eyes have been removed. This prevents him from being raised, she suggests, as the Walker’s power comes into the corpse through the eyes. She suggests that most of the village are the walking dead and tells him that her father (the Walker) has essentially gone mad with grief after his wife died in a car wreck. Walkers can only use their power to get the corpse home, but he raised her for himself and now is turning the entire village into a village of the dead.

The Walker
Charles doesn’t believe, at first, but the film follows him and Anna going to get Lin back (the twist at the end is obvious). However, from what we have seen so far, the walking dead seem very zombie like. Not so, says Anna, they are not zombies – this is explicitly stated. Some of the dead look off, as it were, and one guesses they are put in a repetition mode (like the butcher) or set to attack strangers (like the bride) – though this is not explicitly stated. These dead are almost puppets.

The walking dead
Some of the dead, however, look just like the living (and seem capable of full functioning, including cognitive thought). The only way to tell one of these from a living human is through the fact that they cast no reflection in a mirror. This, of course, is very vamp. But it is the only thing. They do not attack (except by will or instruction of a walker) and, whilst we get something that resembled a neck bite, they do not seem to require blood or flesh for sustenance – though the question is never actually asked.

The walker aspect ties in with the classic Hong Kong movie corpse herder and they are resurrected corpses, some with cognitive functions, who do not reflect in the mirror. Ultimately, however, they are puppets of the walker and I don’t think there is enough to go vamp. Not Vamp – but of genre interest.

The imdb page is here.

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