Saturday, October 19, 2013

Mr. Vampire (1985)

Mr. Vampire (Hong Kong, 1985) - Color, Director(s): Ricky Lau
MPAA Rating: PG-13
[UK: 15]
Approx. 96 min.

Z-rating: 5 stars out of 5

Cheese Factor: 4 stars out of 5

I've talked about this movie enough on this blog, it was about time this got a formal review. Not only is this the granddaddy of all Chinese hopping vampire movies, I'm pretty sure this is the movie that got me into horror movies as a kid. Seeing as the movie is filled with comedy and kung fu action, it was the best way to ease a child into the horror genre.

This movie stars Lam Ching Ying (THE go to vampire hunter in these films), comparable to Peter Cushing in the role of Van Helsing in Hammer films. Accompanied by two bumbling apprentices, the trio forms a team of ghost/vampire hunters that use Taoist magic to fight evil. Referred to as Uncle Nine, Lam Ching Ying's character is advising a wealthy business owner on the exhumation and reburial of his father's corpse. Uncle Nine immediately recognizes that there is something wrong with the corpse and suggests they cremate it. The rich Mr. Yam disagreed, as his father hated fire, so Uncle Nine suggest bringing him back to his mortuary until he can find a different burial plot for the corpse. The explanation given was that granddaddy Yam had forcefully acquired the lucky burial plot from a fortune teller, therefore the fortune teller purposely gave the family bad instructions for the method of burial for granddaddy Yam's corpse.

Granddaddy Yam

Back at the mortuary, the apprentices comment that the corpse hasn't decayed even after being buried for 20 years. When they open the coffin to take a look, they notice it's actually fattened up since they exhumed it! So Uncle Nine immediately figures out a way to trap the corpse until he can figure out what to do with it. [Warning: At this point, he cuts the throat of a chicken and mixes its blood with ink to seal the corpse inside its coffin] Of course, the two bumbling apprentices forget to completely cover the coffin, which allows the corpse to escape once it has reanimated as a vampire. What I find most interesting about these movies are the methods they use to fight these vampires. Sticky rice can be used to fight the vampire toxin, yellow paper talisman can be used to immobilize the vampire, and wooden swords (much like wooden stakes) are most effective against them. These methods and more can be found in my Guide to Surviving Chinese Hopping Vampires

Granddaddy Yam is awake!

After granddaddy Yam breaks out of the coffin, he immediately goes after his son. After the attack on the younger Mr. Yam, there are now two vampires on the loose! To make matters worse, one of Uncle Nine's apprentices also contracts the vampire disease from granddaddy Yam while the other is being haunted by a female ghost. This isn't the first movie to feature the Chinese version of vampires that hop around but this is definitely the most well-known. This movie popularized an entire sub-genre of Hong Kong horror movies that featured stiff corpses and the monobrowed priests in yellow robes that fought them.

Nudity: None. Even though a ghost lady does ask a random guy to "molest" her, but that was part of a bigger plot to gain the attention of one of the apprentices.

Gore: Aside from a bodies of a couple people who were attacked by the vampire, there's the animal violence that I'm pretty sure is real.

Awesome: to the MAX!!! As I said earlier, this is probably the movie that first got me into the horror genre. Even ignoring that fact, this has to be one of my favorite movies of all time! There's a bunch of laughs (some of which may be lost in translation) along with a good amount of Chinese mysticism and folklore. Add a ton of kung fu action and you've got yourself a potent cocktail that will make for a great night of entertainment.