Friday, August 09, 2019

Dracula Vampyre in Beijing – review

Director: Tim Lies

Release date: 2019*

Contains spoilers

*release date according to Amazon Prime video – no IMDb page at the time of review to confirm.

Oh dear Lord, this is bad. A film that is in both English and Cantonese (I assume, rather than Mandarin), it appeared on Amazon Prime video and its an hour and a half I am never getting back – this really is a case of 'I watch them so you don’t have to'.

horror dream eyes
Set in Beijing and the Changping mountain area, we start with a voice over from Li Mei (Liu Xiao Yan) who talks about the mountains being her home and the centre of all she loves. She is an artist and has specialised in art featuring horror dream eyes – a vision that haunts her sleep and she translates into art by taking a horror film poster, cutting the eyes out of a face and having eyes behind that looks like someone behind the poster. She mentions vampires in the mountains living in abandoned war shelters.

The film is set in three acts over three nights of the blood moon, apparently, but there is no sense of chronology really. In the credits we see playing cards where the faces have various vampire icons – Lugosi or Lee for example. Then we are at Li Mei’s birthday and she has been given a pack of these “vampire death cards” by her friends Liu Ling (Wang Yao) and Zhang Zhu (Cui En Hao) – they seem to all believe in vampires. The other friend, intimated later that he is her boyfriend Zhao Guo (Hao Yi Bo), does not believe in vampires. He gives her his gift, wrapped in newspaper, and she seems to zone out and leave the place in a trance.

Dracula and his Coven
Outside and she’s ok but they decide to have a car race (lei Mei against Zhao Guo) to a venue, Vampyre Theatre, where the band Dracula (Tim Lies) and his Coven are due to play. No one has seen the singer's face as he keeps it under a bandana tied over the mouth. The race is pointless cinematically, she wins it and the three friends ‘cosplay’ – Zhao Guo doesn’t. A friend (Wang Ping) of LI Mei (from the mountain) catches her at the door and admonishes her as mountain people die in the mountains (no, it makes no sense). The venue has perhaps nine people in the crowd and Igor (Will Matthews) taking money. The band are made up of vampire brides with Dracula singing. One of the friends takes a photograph of Dracula and notices something funny (but we never see the shot). Li Mei seems entranced.

Li Mei turned
After the gig Li Mei seems entranced again and gets in a strange car – abandoning her friends. Yet we then see her wake up in her own bed, screaming from a nightmare, and her mother (Yang le Qun) comforting her. After the mother leaves, a shadow stretches over the room, Dracula is there and he bites the young woman. In the morning her mother has a box and starts running through the village screaming – apparently Li Mei is dead. We do see her in the morgue and see her wake, have fangs and wander off naked but we also get the message that people don’t know if she is dead or missing.

We also get the brides escaping from Dracula’s lair, where they are chained during the day. First let me mention the chains – they are blooming paper chains that are sticky taped to the wall. No, really. Outside they attack a guy (note it is day time, so no sun related lore is used particularly) and – with the worst effects I have seen for some time – rip his legs and arms off – clearly stuffed clothes and a splodge of meat by the “torso” to represent gore, one eats an arm and dribbles what looks like apple flesh out of their mouth. It really is bad. Igor recaptures them, though we don’t see that, just him bringing them back into the lair.

Tim Lies as Dracula
As for Li Mei – she wanders around aimlessly, either naked or in a wedding dress and the once sceptical Zhao Guo gives a cop (Ivy Shan), who conveniently shows up at the end, a silver bullet to tackle Dracula with. We get a flash of a picture of Vlad Ţepeş at one point and a diatribe about the vampire being there to avenge nature. But really it all meant very little – it is a fever dream and not a particularly good one, with poor effects, poor acting and no narrative worth mentioning. I can’t understand why it was dual language – the actors struggled with the English dialogue, it not being the first language of the Chinese cast, and one would have thought sticking to Chinese dialogue would have been better.

I really wish I could offer you a redeeming feature, but I can’t. 1 out of 10 is probably generous but awarded as the mess feels like it was a labour of love (for Tim Lies, at least) and I can’t condemn that – I can suggest that you steer clear however, as you don’t get the time back. At the time of writing I couldn’t find an IMDb page.

On Demand @ Amazon US

On Demand @ Amazon UK


balleehoo said...

The guy who plays Dracula.....Tim Lies ?.... is the most credible and realistic Vampire I have seen in a very long time. Maybe he will find more substantial roles with other film makers after this? Would be great.

Unknown said...

Oh man, Tim Lies was infamous in the Beijing foreign loonball scene of the 2000's. He had a bunch of really shitty bands and made some equally shitty films while living there.

I randomly caught a show of his in some greasy bar there in 2006. Dude is nuts and claims he speaks to the devil on a regular basis. Very entertaining.

I'm only commenting because I was nostalgic the other day about my time in China, was reading some old blog posts and one was about Tim Lies...I thought to myself, "man, I wonder what happened to that guy". Google sent me here.

He seems to have disappeared though. Not much net activity about his bands and projects since 2015.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hey, unknown poster, I appreciate the background and you stopping by.