Monday, April 10, 2017

Aloha, the Little Vampire – review

Director: Chuang Yan-Chien

Release date: 1987

Contains spoilers

The child kyonsi appears in Chinese movies from time to time and often serves as either a comedic or oddly innocent aside. In this case the film is clearly focused on a child kyonsi and, indeed, child protagonists. It is, pretty much, comedy orientated but that comedy is not always in the best taste. Along with poo and pee gags we also get a homophobic aside that was cringeworthy.

That said this does also carry some fairly unique lore and has a western type vampire element also, so it is pretty much a hotchpotch with some interesting elements, some annoying elements and some offensive moments thrown in. Why the western title include the Hawaiian salutation is not clear.

Uncle Black
So it begins with an old man going in to a room of coffins and talking to the inhabitants, referring to them as vampires. When he leaves one of the coffins rattles and a kyonsi in white robes bursts out of a coffin, he is known as Uncle White ( Lee Hoi-Hing). Following quickly behind is a kyonsi in black robes, with a blacked face and he is known as Uncle Black. Then we hear them addressed by a child kyonsi, Hsiu Long, reminding them that it is his mother’s birthday – both kyonsi are obviously competing with each other and both warn Hsiu about the other.

They enter the hall where the kyonsi will hold the party and we get a scene of dancing kyonsi. Into this comes Hsui’s mother but she is depicted not as a kyonsi but more how maybe another Chinese film might depict a ghost. She dances and Uncle Black imagines dancing with her and kissing her, coming out of his fantasy to discover that he has tried to kiss another (male) kyonsi. This is the homophobic ‘gag’ as the other kyonsi suggests he might get AIDS and remonstrates that Uncle Black didn’t look gay. Uncomfortable dialogue over we cut to Uncle White who has a similar fantasy and asks her to marry him, discovering that he has accidentally asked a chunky female kyonsi to marry him.

The formal part of the party over the guests can now dance as they wish. Both Black and White ask her to dance with them and end up fighting (in leather armour that is just a tad disco, and using bone weapons, the pair tied to each other for the combat). Hsui Long is certain they are fighting over him and leaves his home. Distraught mother sends out vampires to find him (who get scared and come back!) Eventually she agrees that whichever of Uncle Black or White brings Hsui Long home will gain her hand in marriage.

Western style vampire
Elsewhere there is a man who has contracted vampirism – he looks like a western vampire, in suit and cloak. He leaps into a tree and then drops down to kill a guard in his brothers’ camp. His two brothers (the eldest in casual clothing, the younger dressed in a suit) use this attack to capture their undead sibling. There is mention that vampire blood could cure him. Later we see that they are dealing with a Taoist monk who has brought them a kyonsi. They allow the brother to bite the other vampire – the suggestion is that the cold blood of a vampire will act like a poison and counteract the brother’s vampirism. It doesn’t work and the monk rationalises that the process has gone too far and to cure the brother they need, specifically, the blood of a 1000-year-old child vampire.

Hsui Long
Meanwhile we see that there are two group of children living in a nearby town. There is a group of bullies and a group of friends – a child called Dong Dong (Chan Yin-Yu) wants to be the leader of the friends. The friends are playing “ghost” – essentially hide and seek – and there is an attempt to scare them by dressing as kyonsi. One of the friends, who carries a bit more weight, goes for a poo and is bitten on the bum by one of the fake vampires – who ends up with a turd in the mouth for his troubles! Hsui Long finds them and assumes the fake kyonsi to be real – but when he blows cold air (that knocks the kids over) to prove he is a vampire they run away. He meets Dong Dong and decides to befriend him – though Dong Dong is not wanting to befriend a vampire.

We get to a point in the film where the bullies are after Hsui Long and, as their leader is the monk’s nephew, he gets hold of some Taoist equipment. There is comedy with Dong Dong's parents, with the father (Ma Hok-Man) depicted as weak, and the harridan mother (Yeung Hung) actually a man in drag. The two adult kyonsi try to get the child kyonsi in order to take him home, and more often than not end up fighting each other, and the monk is trying to capture Hsui Long to give to the brothers. Eventually the kids help the kyonsi get home to his mother.

healing powers
I mentioned lore and Hsui Long has a variety of powers – as well as being warded by religious scrolls/markings – this includes being able to heal his friends, turn pots into cute bunnies and levitate people. He is susceptible to Taoist tricks. Interestingly he leads the kids over a river to hide from the Uncles because the water disturbs their sense of smell. The more western vampire can be warded by a cross, which will actually zap him with energy. This doesn’t have any effect on the kyonsi who are able to bring a cross along to fight him.

using a cross
The film is filled with histrionics as one would expect from a film where kids are the primary focus. There is some kung fu thrown in and some gags that are just wrong now. I liked the playing with the two cultures – something that other films would run with as well. However the film was just not as good as many out there (bad gags aside) and really shows its age as well. 3 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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