Tsui Hark's Vampire Hunters

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 02/15/07 00:50:55

"It's exactly what you think it is."
3 stars (Just Average)

“Tsui Hark’s Vampire Hunters” has the most self-explanatory title since “John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars.” We know exactly what we’re about to get - namely, the wild action that goes with the Tsui Hark name, with lots of vampire action tossed in for good measure. And, well, a few guys will be hunting them.

I loves me a good kung fu zombie vampire action horror comedy flick, and “Vampire Hunters” delivers. The film, written and produced by Hong Kong cinema legend Hark (with internet buzz suggesting he directed large chunks as well, alongside credited director Wellson Chin), is a doozy of an adventure, combining a lighthearted action plot with some genuinely creepy vampire imagery.

We start by learning of a new twist in the vampire legend. Vampires, as seen here, are zombies who ate a little too much human flesh and have now evolved into more menacing creatures. The story takes place in 17th century rural China, a place and time where such creatures feel as if they could truly exist. It’s a land of foggy woods and mysterious palaces, strange warriors and stranger enemies. The characters talk about the undead as if they’re an everyday thing.

Our heroes in this adventure are four young warriors, Lightning (Chan Kwok Kwan), Wind (Ken Chang), Rain (Lam Suet), and Thunder (Michael Chow). (“What kind of stupid names are those?” asks one character.) They’ve found themselves wandering the countryside looking for vampires to, um, hunt, when they stumble across a wedding ceremony and are hired to work the kitchen. Hey, anything for a buck, right?

It’s not long before our fearsome foursome wind up as servants of sorts at the palace of the newlyweds, where a sticky plot is uncovered. The groom dies from a snake bite. The now-widowed bride, Sasa (Anya), is denied a chance to return to her home. Sasa’s brother, Dragon Tang (Horace Lee Wai Shing), had set the whole thing up to get the Jiang family treasure. The creepy father-in-law, Master Jiang (Yu Rong Guang), may be protecting more than just a stockpile of gold. And the basement is filled with hundreds of corpses, well-preserved in wax.

Around this, Hark and Chin craft a nifty little adventure, filled with charming comedy, kickass fight sequences, and the occasionally chilling image. Those wax-covered bodies are mighty eerie, and a battle featuring a horde of the undead is both thrilling and creepy.

The most memorable bit in “Vampire Hunters” is its unique spin on how vampires attack. These demon-corpse-things don’t bite your neck. Nope, they just inhale deeply, enough to get all your blood to pour out of your body, almost in dust form. They’re literally sucking the life force out of you. It’s a dazzling idea and a great variation on vampire lore.

Now, I’ll admit that there’s not much of a plot here, but then, would you really expect one from a movie that has zombies doing kung fu? “Vampire Hunters” is a quickie thrill ride, with plenty to satisfy any fan of horror or action flicks.

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