Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Vampire Combat – review

Director: Wilson Tong

Release date: 2001

Contains spoilers

This was an odd old duck of a film, there were some awfully Hong Kong movie effects of a type common in such movies some ten to twenty years previous to this film’s release, yet these were mixed in with occasional cgi effects that worked rather well.

The film starts with a voice over that discusses a planetary alignment that occurs once every 60 years. We then see a jeep driving through the countryside towards a town. There is little to suggest date and I felt it was more modern than it eventually transpired. One actually has to assume this was around 1940. In the village everyone is gathered in one place eating raw flesh, they have fangs and clearly are vampires. A creature walks in, later revealed to be Mao Lung (Wai Lam) or the ‘Devil Monster’, and the vampires worship him. He announces that the great time has arrived, through the sacrifice of the Yin Woman (Valerie Chow) he will become the greatest God of Darkness.

the rescue party
The jeep contains three men, Hsu Yao Tu (Andrew Lin), Rock (Wing-Kin Lau) and Lau Yun (Tau Chu), as well as two women, Sherin and another whose name I missed – I must admit. They have come to prevent the ascendancy of Devil Monster and rescue the Yin Woman – who is Piu Hung, Hsu’s wife. It appears that Hsu was Mao Lung’s pupil and has turned on his magician master, the other pupil was Wuchie (Collin Chou) and he watches from a rooftop and moves, with preternatural speed, to warn Mao Lung.

Vampire dissolution
The five start to fight through vampires. When they are killed they rapidly reduce to skeleton, which then dusts, and this was the nice cgi effect I mentioned. Devil Monster bites Piu Hung before Hsu gets there. He then offers his former pupil sole access to the book and seems to be trying to eye mojo him. Outside Wuchie breaks Sherin’s neck.

ballooning head
Lau Yung runs in and Devil Monster takes his eyes for his trouble. Hsu seems to break from the spell he is under and throws a dagger at Devil Monster – this has no effect other than making the creature’s head balloon for a second – and then manages to impale him with five sacred nails. He fails to kill him though, only managing to neutralise him, and Devil Monster’s magic infects them all – making them eternally young it later transpires.

Andrew Lin as Hsu
Pai Hung kills herself as she does not wish to be a vampire (which, of course, is the direct opposite of Western lore, where a suicide becomes a vampire) but she does not die before she and Hsu swear eternal devotion to each other. Hsu and Wuchie both grab at the book of magic and rip it in half along the spine. Wuchie escapes. We then cut and see Hsu and Rock at a river. Again dating is not given but I assume it is 40 years on. They see energy hit a house and rush to it; inside the people are slaughtered – all but a baby girl. Rock wants to kill her but Hsu knows she is Pai Hung and seals her third eye instead. This will block her memories of her past life and hide her from Wuchie, who will try and use her to empower Devil Monster and complete the ritual of power.

Shen is Pai Hung reborn
The film then cuts to the year 2000 (or the year of the millennium, which is the only date we get in the film). The little girl has grown up and is now known as Shen – the owner of a hair dressing salon (later we discover that whenever she has needed money for anything it has mysteriously been provided). The alignment is approaching, Wuchie searches for her and the other half of the book and a psychic detective called Tony Wei (Jackie Lui Chung-yin) is drawn into the story.

Jackie Lui Chung-yin as Wei
At this point, unfortunately, the film began to lose its way. The centre section – leading to the film’s climax, stumbles along in places as the pacing is askew and, frankly, I found it got a little boring in places. Wei is hired by Shen as a blind man seemed to be following her (Lau Yung, who is now a fortune teller to the rich and famous) and she keeps dreaming of a bearded man (Hsu, who is an ultra-rich business man). There were interesting moments – the ritual’s survivors age rapidly when killed, but the film did drag.

Devil Monster
The climax was better, but logic-less occasionally. For instance, Devil Monster is revived and Wei and Hsu are expected to try and rescue a kidnapped Shen. Like before, he is surrounded by vampires who worship him. Does he send them after his enemies? No. He opens a pit to Hell and drops the vampires in it as a gift. Logic would have dictated he send his followers after his enemies – he could always have sacrificed any who survived.

That said the film had merits despite its flaws. 4 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

No comments: