Time for another Review… a really waaaaay overdue one… and this time out, yours truly has herself another goofy “Hopping Vampire” tale from good ol’ HK, the 2014 Horror/ Comedy “Sifu Vs. Vampire” by prolific HK genre producer/ director Wong Jing. Expecting some more of the riveting Jiangshi horror we saw in “Rigor Mortis”? Ha!!! I said “Wong Jing”… so leave all expectations of serious Asian horror right by the door as you enter… Wong Jing don’t play that way… 😉
Our synopsis goes like this here: “Small time gangster Nicky and his friend Boo get the assignment of a life time, to threaten Charlie Jiang, a feng shui master into exhuming the corpse of the great grandfather of TV station tycoon Kelvin Chow. A new burial is said to bring Kelvin great fortune and prosperity but things take a turn for the worse when his great grandfather’s corpse turns into a deadly Vampire King and is let loose inside the TV station while a show about zombies is being filmed. Soon our heroes are up to their necks in both trouble and the hopping dead!”
Yep. From our trailer, looks like we’re going to get all the retro Jiangshi antics we HK movie fans know and love. Hopping Vampires… Taoist Vampire Hunters… a lovely romantic ghost girl… and two hapless boobs to scream and run around like idiots. Yep. They seem to have all the usual bases covered. So what the heck are you waiting for? Neko’s ready to spill the beans if you’re ready to “Read On”, o’ Gentle Visitor. Let’s get hopping!! 😮
Ahhhh… good ol’ Wong Jing. If you’ve watched as many Hong Kong films as this wee lady then it’s a given you are already familiar with him,HK film’s answer to Roger Corman. Like Corman, Wong Jing has an undeniable talent for cranking out oodles and oodles of the goofiest, most exploitative films you’ve ever seen. Some good ones… and of course a whole lot of bad ones… but darn it if they aren’t mostly pretty darn good little moneymakers when it’s all said and done. For the most part they are pretty darn entertaining too… as long as Asian flavored “cinema junk food” is your cup of tea, that is. They certainly are mine… 😉
With all that in mind, I approached this particular film with the comfortable notion that I wasn’t going to get any real attempt to stretch my expectations to anything approaching “Oscar” worthy film making. Yep… I just wanted a quiet evenings movie watchin’ fun on the couch with my sweet wife… some giggles… perhaps a little rolling of the eyes, at least on Carolyn’s part… and maybe a whole lot of the goofy HK hopping vampire action I remember with fondness from the old 80’s and 90’s HK vampire films I watched back in college.
Yep. Can’t say my expectations were too far off either. What we get is a silly “buddy comedy” featuring two wannabee Triad gangsters, Big Nicky (played by Ronald Cheng) and the “Beavis” to his “Butthead”, his hapless Afro coiffed sidekick Boo (played by Philip Ng with, to me at least, an uncanny resemblance to Indonesian horror star Rizky Mocil). Oh yeah… it’s gonna be one of those sorts of movies… 😉
Anyways… the boys are about the absolutely worst gangsters in all of HK. Somehow though, they are actual working members of Triad Boss Brother Snake’s (played by Tony Ho) mob. Part of me figures they aren’t tooooo darn high up on the scale of minions, but hey… who says all Triads are created equal? As our story begins, we get one of those neat lil’ “Wong Jing” scenes… as the boys become tasked with saving their boss from certain death at the hands of his wife, who’s managed to get herself possessed by demons while engaged in a bit of “sexy fun time” with her hubby. He’s desperate to get her exorcised… as well as keep her from eating his… errrr… ahhhh… “tender bits”. Nobody else in the gang has any ideas about what to do and only Nicky and Boo are dumb enough to want to get involved in the hopes of raising their reps with the Boss. Waaay over their heads, the boys manage to do something lucky and call in Taoist feng shui master Charlie Jiang (Yep…. say the name reeeaally slow… then the pun will slap you in the face…) to do do job of clearing her up. Thankfully for the goofy duo, Master Jiang (played by veteran actor Yuen Biao) and his tough disciple Lingxin (played by “Coweb” star Jiang Luxia) are the real deal and in a downright wacky sequence that would have been right at home in any of the old “Mr. Vampire” movies they drive away the evil demons and saves the Boss. That makes our boys look like heroes… well… OK... maybe not exactly heroes, but at least not like the incompetent slacker boobs they really are. That put them in the position of being the Boss’s new “go to” guys when anything weird pops up. Like when rich TV executive Ah Keung (played by Kelvin Kwan) wants to arrange the unearthing and relocation of his grandfather’s burial site. Yeah…. seems his family’s fortunes are all the result of his dead ol’ granddad sucking up all the “luck and fortune” from the graves of those buried near him to benefit his bloodline, and now that it’s all exhausted, his personal fortunes depend on moving grandpa’s corpse to fresher digs where he can get back to stealing all that good karma from a whole new group of fellow corpses. Uhhh… OK. Ummm… Yeah… I guess that sounds like a plan. (Actually… it was right about this point in the movie where my sweetie gave me the first of those eye rolls and a “You’ve got to be kidding…” look. I guess the folklore is a bit goofy sounding if you aren’t Chinese… 😉 )
Grandpa is a Jiangshi of course. I mean… apparently he was a real a-hole of a gangster when he was alive, and being dead only let him become even more greedy and evil. Naturally dealing with him now represents a whole mess of nasty risk… so of course the boys want the help of Master Jiang. Problem is… he’s already been involved with this once before years ago when he was his father’s apprentice and that attempt went horribly wrong resulting in his father’s tragic demise so naturally he wants nothing to do with it. However…. he is interested in our hapless duo thanks to a lonely ghost girl (played by Michelle Hu) who’s become smitten with Big Nicky. Nicky is clueless of course… he only knows that the mysterious beauty is inexplicably interested in him… but Master Jiang knows that a forbidden romance between ghost and human will only lead to misery. But hey… when has the threat of Divine Retribution ever stood in the way of True Love? 😉
Yeah…. yeah… so anyways, there’s a lil’ “Chinese Ghost Story” thrown in to our story right about here to lighten things up… but hey, since our movie is supposed to be all about vampire fighting and without Jiang to move Grandpa to his new digs, Ah Keung has to resort to hiring evil Taoist master Leopard Man (played by Ricky Yi) to do his dirty work. As it happens, he’s also the villain that has our pretty ghost’s funeral urn and her ashes, thus tying all our subplots together conveniently. You just know he’s gonna screw things up, set grandpa loose and pretty soon there will be a veritable plague of the undead to deal with. Now we’re talking….
The climax of the film takes place at the TV studio as the recently “vampirized” Ah Keung and his Granddad prey upon everybody there creating a veritable horde of hopping undead for our heroes to battle in proper CGI fashion. It’s an OK battle… with less of the hard fighting action I expected of a film featuring Jiang Luxia. Seems somewhat of a disappointment to have such a talented martial artist on hand and not utilize her more… oh well… Naturally all ends well and evil Grandpa gets destroyed and Big Nicky and his ghostly crush get to marry with the usual off color Wong Jing style humor for their wedding night. 🙂
So then… what’s the verdict? That’s a real question. By most standards this one is a typical low budget hopping vampire romp, but all the fancy CGI in the world didn’t really lend it any of the charm of those older films I remember so fondly. As a “Wong Jing” film it’s second rate at best… having a few shining moments of his trademark humor, but again…. nowhere near the equal of some of his classic earlier efforts. 6 of one… half a dozen of the other…. I suppose that’s really where this one sits then. Squarely in the middle, with a mere 3 “Meows” out of 5. Neither good enough to rise to the top nor terrible enough to sink into obscurity. Sometimes that’s how it goes. But at least it was a reasonable evening’s HK hopping vampire fun “old school” style… even if my sweet Carolyn still doesn’t think the goofy image of hopping corpse is actually scary. 😉
Leave you without a Trailer? Never… 😉