Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Honourable Mention – Shaolin Vs Evil Dead: Ultimate Power


Having investigated Shaolin vs The Evil Dead under a ‘Vamp or Not?’ and decided it was indeed a vampire movie you might wonder why I am giving the sequel a ‘Honourable Mention’. In truth it is because, having watched the movie and sat and thought about it I am still caught in a massive WTF moment.

First off to note that, whilst all the main characters are back they have all changed names. The DVD has both a subtitled and badly dubbed version and the names are not consistent between the two. (Incidentally avoid the English dub like the plague, when I said it was badly dubbed I wasn’t kidding). For this write up I have used the names in the credits - again not consistent - and will cross reference with the names from the first film.

You might recall that the first film left us with a cliffhanger, Brother Black (Louis Fan) – now called Steed – had awakened the vampire king (Kit Cheung) and then been possessed by him… now forget that, for the time being.

We cut back in time in this, to before Steed is born, and the start of the film is somewhat like the backstory we were told of Steed’s animosity with Brother White (Gordon Liu) – now called Roam Chow. In the first film it seemed that Roam Chow was chosen to be leader of the two men’s temple above Steed and this is where the dislike came from. True… ish.

Pheonix and DragonThe film starts with a man, Dragon (Louis Fan again) riding a horse with a woman called Phoenix (Marsha Yuan). The camera keeps pulling into their bodies, in a CSI like effect, and we see something spreading within them. She falls and he acrobatically jumps from the horse and catches her.

evil warrior womanWe then go further back in time and see how a village was attacked by a gang of brigands led by a female warrior. Dragon was dispatched to save them and, not long after, Phoenix went to help the man she loves. They were successful but both were injured and a poison entered their system. Phoenix was pregnant. They managed to keep her alive until the baby was born and then she died. The baby had the poison, as an evil, inside him and a young child brings an antidote that saves dragon.

Roam Chow as a young manThe young child grows to be Roam Chow (played as a young man by Shih Wa Fung) and he grew and trained with Steed (played as a youth by Max Zhang). Eventually the poison catches up with Dragon and so he names a successor – Roam Chow. Okay, the film has been going on some time but one feels that we now have the back story – but no… the back story continues.

Steed as a young manSteed steals temple relics and goes after some magic swords, taking with him a young apprentice called Grace (Shannon Yoh), who was called Moon previously. He then goes on a wrecking course through various temples, killing the leaders, whilst Roam Chow hones his skills in his temple.

Louis Fan as SteedEventually Steed ends back towards home and is going to attack some monks from Roam Chow’s temple. Grace intervenes and a young boy gets mixed up in it, Roam Chow rescues them.

We are now 1 hour and eight minutes into the film and what has happened, in respect of the first film, has been utterly forgotten – except that… Well Roam Chow, Grace, Joe (Jacky Woo) – who was Sun – and Light (Shi Xiao Ho) – who was Fire – go to a tower to get the stones of the five elements that can free Steed from the poison within. Steed is a vampireSteed then becomes a vampire and we are back to him being possessed by the vampire king – except of course, in this, he isn’t even mentioned and we are concerned with the poison that infected him with evil when in the womb. It is as though the end of the film was already shot (there is footage that appears at the end of the first film from this segment) and then they filmed another hour that had bugger all to do with the first film.

Indeed directorial credits were shared between the original director Douglas Kung and Yip Wing Kin – and though I do not know for certain I’m betting the original director did the last thirty minutes and the first hour was done to put some length to what was already shot under studio orders… it seems like a good bet.

Kyonsi armyWe then get a mystical battle between Steed and Roam Chow whilst an army of kyonsi – the hopping type vampires – descend upon the tower. These are fought against by Joe and (eventually as she suddenly appears to be possessed for no reason until Joe mystically zaps her) Grace. Steed ends up splitting from his evil side which becomes the vampire king.

In fairness the ending does, kind of, fit onto the story we’ve been watching for an hour – with a few logic leaps and a distinct lack of exposition as to where the vampires came from – if you have never seen the first film. If you have you realise what an unholy mess they have made of the original story.

KyonsiThe film works (without the first film) and is a very serious martial arts drama and actually had me thoroughly engrossed – odd as the first film had lots of comedy that is now lost. The child kyonsi that Light birthed has vanished all together. Lord knows what I would do if I were to try and review this, the first film ended way too abruptly and didn’t work on its own, this film doesn’t work if you watch it in context with the first film. An ‘honourable mention’ seemed the only way forward.

Anyhoo, my head hurts…

At the time of writing I could not find an imdb page.

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