Thursday, September 30, 2010

Vampire’s Breakfast – review

Director: Chung Wang

Release date: 1987

Contains spoilers

Hong Kong movies can be a strange old melting pot of lore at times. Take Vampire’s Breakfast, or Ling Chen Wan Can as it was known domestically... Set with a backdrop of a reporter Fat Piao (Kent Cheng) investigating a series of strange murders it introduces a Western type set of lore and then spins it around towards the end into something much more unusual.

reflected in window
It begins with a woman leaving a building and heading down a street, at night. She stops to look into a shop window and we see a reflection of a man (Simon Willson) watching her. He is, however, somewhat unusual. Rather than the standard suave Western Count he looks more like a zombie, his skin blued and corrupted. He also has a reflection we note. The girl becomes more and more scared as she walks, convinced she is followed. Until she reaches her car, gets in and is grabbed.

bite wounds on neck
The fact that he knew which was her car indicates that she is no random victim – though this is not elaborated on. A thief, Broker, breaking into cars to steal stereos opens her car and her drained body flops out, bite wounds on the neck. We then see a couple attacked on a building site, he falls and dies she is got by the vampire. Angie Lin (Emily Chu) is driving by and hits the vampire as he leaves. The body then vanishes.

raiding the blood bank
Fat Piao is sent by his editor (Ma Wu) to check out the crime scene at the building site. The police, headed by Inspector Chen (Parkman Wong), are not cooperating with the press and Piao takes it upon himself to climb up the building to get better shots. The police take the film from his camera. He then goes to Angie and (after she traps his hand in the door) gets some information from her – the police told her to forget what she saw. Finally a source tells him that all the victims have died from ‘over-bleeding’. He interviews Broker and then decides, with the thief, to break into the hospital. They find blood on the floor (when Broker slips in it) and this seems to be from the blood bank. Inside the blood bank the vampire is stealing blood. This leads to a chase around the blood bank and the very strong vampire flinging cabinets around.

behind you
Eventually he gets hold of Broker by having hidden in a fridge and grabbing him but Fat Piao manages to get the man away and they head for the door when the police burst in. The vampire ends up cornered outside but is impervious to bullets – which make a car explode. The vampire ignores the flames as he climbs the burning car to escape.

We see a blossoming relationship between Piao and Angie – though this does stall momentarily when he misses a date because there has been another murder. The next murder causes him and Broker to break into the mortuary which is filled with corpses all sporting wounds to the neck. Piao does try and circumvent ethics by taking a make-up wearing Broker to some pre-war buildings to photograph him as the vampire. As it happens the real vampire is there and throttles Piao.

violent cross reaction
He manages to get away due to a combination of his camera flash – leading to excellent pictures of the fiend – and the fact that there is a cross nearby. The vampire has extreme staurophobia and, indeed, just the sight of the cross makes his flesh part and causes spontaneous bleeding. Piao has a picture of the vampire but the police convinces his fellow reporters that the pictures are of Broker and fake. Paio must clear his name and that means finding the vampire…

some things live without a head
I do want to mention the ending as we get a showdown with the vampire that reveals the unique lore. Paio manages to get a good axe swing in and decapitate the vampire. All seems well but the headless body is soon up and around, throttling Inspector Chen and the head itself flies at Piao and tries to bite him. The adage “nothing lives without a head” does not hold here!

All in all I found this a solid piece of Hong Kong cinema. The vampire reminded me of something that Dan Curtis might have dreamed up a decade earlier, with the blue decaying visage. Kent Cheng is possibly not as personable as some of the better known stars we have seen in Hong Kong Vampire movies but he is still rather good and I think the word solid is probably the best descriptor I could come up with for the film. 5.5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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