Friday, July 17, 2020

Bio Raiders – review

Director: Tommy Leung

Release date: 2017

Contains spoilers

This was an odd one. I read it was a vampire film and was prepared for it to go down the more usual kyonsi movie route. Then, as I watched, I felt it was perhaps more a zombie flick and was tempted towards writing a ‘Vamp or Not?’ when bam… it was full on western styled vampire. Unfortunately to get to the vampire I will have to spoil a primary twist but feel no guilt – as the IMDb blurb for the film already spoils it (despite the blurb not actually matching the film plot).

It also stars some very familiar faces from Hong Kong cinema as we’ll see. However this film did feel like it was done on the cheap, certainly compared to some of the films they have been involved in.

figure in red
So, it starts with a voice over about a flower that herbalists speak of that can replenish blood and heal people, that herbalists have searched for as it is very rare. We then see a herbalist, Li Yao Shi (Siu-Ho Chin, Mr Vampire, Rior Mortis & Vampire Cleanup Department - amongst many) gathering herbs at night. He seems haunted by a figure in red… He comes around, trussed up and knelt before a home shrine with Pearl (Hu Xiang-Zhen) sat by him. She is the daughter of a man whose life he saved and has decided she will marry him. She tried to force him through the ritual and then takes his reluctance as an indication he wants to go straight to the bedroom.

the zombies
She drags him to the bed, still trussed, but he tells her that he loves another. She has taken a flower shaped hair pin from his pocket and rightly surmises it is a token and places it in her hair. She continues her carnal assault (in the tamest sense) until there is a knock at the door. Eventually, after more knocking, she goes to answer it and is faced with two strange looking robed blokes with painted faces. Pearl and the men fight and Li realises they are zombies. He gets loose from the bed and manages to stop them with needles (in a form of acupuncture of the undead). However, the mastermind of the attack makes his presence known, with a group of soldiers behind him.

Richard Ng as Master Mo
Brother Lei (Billy Lau, also Mr Vampire, also Rigor Mortis & Haunted Cop Shop - amongst many) was a student with Li under Master Mo (Richard Ng, Also Rigor Mortis, also Vampire Cleanup Department & Mr Vampire 3) before they were both expelled. Lei is now working for a general and the son (Eddy Law) thereof, who is also a general, has been shot and is dying. Lei has come to force Li to help save the young man. They are taken at gunpoint to the general’s mansion. Whilst there, Li discovers that Lei has also taken Master Mo – but the man seems to be suffering dementia – and his daughter, and the love of Li’s life, who is referred to as Junior Sister (Liu Jia). However, she still looks as young as when they were expelled, whereas Li and Lei have aged normally – this is put down to the skill she was taught by Master Mo.

Eddy Law as Young General
So, the young General is dying and is poisoned and becomes a poisoned corpse – essentially a zombie going after all his officers and a nurse, who are all turned and are pretty much dumb as rocks (though horny too). However, after they make the Master’s fabled elixir, there is a change in the young general and he now craves blood. Without the addition of the flower mentioned at the beginning the elixir heals but cannot replenish blood and the recipient craves blood. Aha, thought I… that’s vampiric and whilst he acts like a zombie, he may be a vampire or at least a zompire.

vampire revealed
However, we also get tale of a plague years before… which was actually a series of vampire attacks. Eventually, having thrown unwarranted shade at Master Mo, the film reveals that it is Junior Sister, whose life was saved with the elixir decades before but made her a vampire (there is a hint this is tied with the moon, but that is not explicit) and when she reveals herself she is depicted pretty much as a western vampire – though her fangs are really widely spaced. So, what is the journey like getting there?

Li and Pearl
The film is played pretty much for laughs and the primary source of the humour is Pearl and her obsession in respect of Li and her jealousy. Some bits are genuinely funny, others bizarrely so (such as using acupuncture to make her breasts inflate for one minute so she can use them to batter zombies) but she was also the issue I had with the film. She was really shrill (purposefully so) and the performance threatened to give me, as viewer, a headache at times. It was unfortunate and, had the performance been knocked down a notch or two it may have really worked.

Billy Lau as Lei
More amusing was Billy Lau as the duplicitous, untrustworthy Lei, who worked the scenes like the pro he is. Both Pearl and Lei pretty much used Li as straight man and foil and again Siu-Ho Chin worked the scenes with great aplomb. Richard Ng was fairly under-used in the present-day scenes but was central to flashbacks that we got through the film. The effects were low key and the film felt cheaper than it might have done, especially when compared to films like Rigor Mortis. Scoring it, I’m somewhat torn but can’t get over the Pearl character. 5 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

On Demand @ Amazon US

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