Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Mr Vampire 2 – review


Director: Ricky Lau

Release date: 1986

Contains spoilers

Whilst this is a sequel to Mr Vampire the film has precious little to do with the original – bar the appearance of kyonsi (traditional Chinese hopping vampires). There are no character connections and the story is moved into the modern day.

The tone of the film has changed also, much more action/comedy – with a family element – and less the subtle mix of styles that graced the first movie.

Chung Fat as Professor KwokIt begins with Professor Kwok (Chung Fat), with two of his assistants on an archaeological dig. They find a few plates, worthless as they were made in Hong Kong, but then a cave is spotted. They enter (and following a literal trouser snake gag) discover that it was a burial area. Kwok is not a moral archaeologist and is taking gold teeth from skeletons, when they find three coffins. In one is a woman, in another a child. The third is empty, its supposed occupant nearby in a death grip with a skeleton. All three are perfectly preserved and have prayer scrolls on their heads.

child kyonsi revives in carKwok removes the corpses to sell and his buyer wishes a sample – the small one will do. Leaving one assistant behind, he takes the child to his seller. As the two grave robbers drive along the prayer scroll is blown from the child’s head. He revives but is more fascinated by a toy than blood and is then entranced by the radio, using magic to switch it on when Kwok switches it off. This leads to his discovery. The men run from the car but, when they return, he is gone. They head back to base.

scared of bright lightMeanwhile assistant number one removes the scroll from the females head to study it – we discover it is called a corpse appeasing talisman. Of course she revives and is hungry. This leads to an extended comedy fight scene, where we discover that bright artificial light hurts a kyonsi. Unfortunately the prayer scroll is ripped during the fight.

coming to get youTo stop her he removes the other scroll and the male revives. We end up with an almost tag-team sequence and discover that the vampire won’t touch a mortal wearing the scroll. Eventually he is bitten on the arm but manages to get away, leaving the female wearing the scroll and the male hunting a bird.

the child kyonsiThe professor returns and they capture the male. They must find the child however. As for the child, he is hiding in a greenhouse and is discovered by a young girl. The child kyonsi seems friendly and just as scared of her. When she hears about child refugees she assumes he is one and retrieves him into the house – we see he has a power to levitate things (toys in this case, and her brother).

overtones of ETThe child kyonsi is scared of the sun but they get him to go play by dressing him up in shades and a scarf. The entire hiding him in a cupboard and dressing him up had an overtone of ET, and this entire sub-plot became a little tedious. The vampires are a family unit, thus we are expected to have a little sympathy for them, and this distracted from the horror aspects.

bite is necrotisingMeanwhile the bitten assistant goes to see a traditional doctor (Lam Ching Ying) as his bite has necrotised. The doctor recognises the bite for what it is and as such he, his daughter, GiGi (Moon Lee Choi Fung), and her boyfriend and reporter Jen (Yuen Biao) become involved and try to stop the kyonsi.

fight sequenceI mentioned that the child sub-plot fell flat to me and there was one comedy sequence that failed to work, involving Jen, and then the rest of the heroes, fighting the kyonsi in a cloud of sedative – thus everything moved slowly. It was okay at first but then the joke wore thin but continued, and continued. We discovered at the end that sedative can put a kyonsi to sleep.

kyonsiOther jokes worked well. When offering the police his credentials Lam Ching Ying uses his actual name and says that his master Sammo – referencing actor/director Sammo Hung Kam-Bo – once had a Spooky Encounter and was now involved with the Dead and the Deadly – referencing the 1982 film of the same name – whilst he, the year before, caught a Mr Vampire – referencing the fact that he was in the previous film. It was done so naturally it worked really well.

trying to have a nibbleGenerally the film is fun, and above average, despite the problem areas. However it is not a patch on the original movie. To a degree it probably shouldn’t have had the series name, having little in common bar the kyonsi and recurring actors.

6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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