Sunday, December 13, 2015

Sifu Vs Vampire – review

Director: Daniel Chan Yee-Heng

Release date: 2014

Contains spoilers

Sifu Vs Vampire is a kyonsi movie, that ties in some European vampire tropes and even has a touch of the zompire to it. It perhaps does nothing new and relies on that a little too puerile humour that sometimes plagues this type of movie but it is fun in its own way. A popcorn movie one might say.

However, as the film starts you wouldn’t necessarily know that. It actually starts with quiet a classy edge. It begins with scenes that are clearly set in the Ghost Festival, with people burning Hell Bank Notes. We hear children singing Ring a Ring o’ Roses and see a woman (Michelle Hu Ran) enter a building and demand to know where her sister is.

ejected from the club
Then the tone changes. We see two guys literally thrown out of a club. They are Nicky (Ronald Cheng Chung-Kei) and Boo (Philip Ng Wan-Lung), their mission to get Boo to 'pop his cherry' obviously has not gone down too well. They phone their gangster boss, Snake (Tony Ho Wah-Chiu), for some back-up but get none and end up with Nicky trying to pull a woman, getting rid of Boo and being robbed by the woman who turns out to be a transvestite. He chases after the robber and a woman falls onto a car roof right beside him – she is the woman from the start of the film.

Tomorrow dying
He goes to the hospital with her, discovering that she calls herself Tomorrow and then gets a call. Snake’s wife (Winnie Leung Man-Yee, the Vampire who Admires Me) is possessed and has taken his manhood hostage (as they put it). Nicky has to get to the boss’ home quick but, on the way, he sees a book on Feng Shui by Taoist Master Charlie Chiang (Yuen Biao, Mr Vampire & Mr Vampire 2) and calls the man for help.

pulling out the demon
She really is possessed but Chiang comes and exorcises the demons from her. The gangsters go to see him the next day but are interrupted by TV executive AK Chow (Kelvin Kwan Cho-Yiu). Chiang’s father was involved in reburying AK’s grandfather (Law Kin-Ming) and the reburial has given 30 years of luck by draining the luck from other graves. AK knows that is about to run out and needs the corpse reburying again. Chiang refuses flat out to do it. Snake is commissioned to try and “persuade” Chiang to change his mind.

the kyonsi awakened
Chiang’s refusal is not solely because of the immorality of draining luck from other families. He was at the earlier reburial and it cost him his father as the corpse turned and became a vampire – attacking all at the reburial. He never got a chance to burn the vampire, as his dying father requested, and someone else must have finished the job. However AK eventually goes to another, morally ropey, Taoist called Leopard Man (Ricky Yi Fan-Wai) who also happens to be the one who killed Tomorrow. Nicky finds himself haunted by her ghost, as she wants him to get her ashes back off Leopard Man.

Kelvin Kwan Cho-Yiu as AK
AK becomes infected with vampirism but he acts much more like a Western vampire than a kyonsi. He in turn makes a bevy of vampire brides but you may be wondering where the zompires come into this? The studio is making a film referred to as vampire v zombies but also Walking Dead vs Twilight. I liked this as it poked fun at studios cashing in rather than shooting fish in the Twilight barrel. Late in the film it seems all the extras are turned but they appear and move more like a zombie horde, yet are stopped by a projected anti-vampire talisman, so are probably zompires.

Other lore sees virgin blood being important to kill a king vampire and talisman symbols being drawn onto shotgun cartridges. There is the use of rice milk bathing to take away a vampire’s venom before someone turns (and one fang appearing during the turning process). The vampire himself exudes a dark mist and can regenerate lost limbs

vampire, kyonsi and zompires
As suggested, the film does a few bits new but mainly relies on old tropes. That said it puts it all together well, looks rather good (not as classy as Rigor Mortis but then again that is a fantastic piece of cinema) and is great fodder for an entertaining watch. Some of the jokes are well past the sell by date – holding breath as the vampire hunts them (as kyonsi are blind and hunt breath) and someone farts for instance (there is a logical faux pas to that one, if you think about it). The characters are kind of cookie cutter but do what they have to. 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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