Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Spirited Killer 2 - Awakened Zombie Battles (199x)

Original title: I'd love to know

Despite the title, this film was probably made before the film that is known as Spirited Killer in Western markets, and does also - as far as I understand - not actually belong to the series of films of which Spirited Killer was the fourth part.

Anyway, here's what this one's about: three groups of people have independently and at the same time arrived in the same patch of jungle. One is a group of Chinese guys and girls and a mediocre Buddhist priest looking for the grave of one of the girls' grandfather (most characters here don't have any names, so who knows what the girl's is) to repatriate him and bring him into the fold in the family tomb back in China. The second group in the area is a merry band of Thai graverobbers, on their way to rob exactly the grave the Chinese are looking for. The third is a magically minded gang using the secluded location to ritually burn their dead leader and transplant his spirit into his successor.

Trouble arises when the mediocre priest starts his own ritual to find the body of gramps at the same time the graverobbers are bleeding on the corpse of Gramps and the spirit transfer is taking place. That's the sort of thing that really messes up everyone's mojo. So thanks to the magical accident Gramps awakens as a hopping vampire and the gang leader becomes one of those Thai martial arts zombie vampire dudes. Both turn out to be rather grumpy.

Obviously, only a Chinese/Thai team-up can win the day.

For once, I can't really blame the licensor (in this case Mill Creek continuing the bad policies of BCI) too much for trying to sell a film as part of a series it doesn't belong to. After all, Awakened Zombie Battles - like Spirited Killer - is another among the astonishing number of films featuring Panna Rittikrai and his stunt team, a patch of jungle that looks somewhat familiar to me by now, martial arts-mad undead of various forms and sorts, and frightening heaps of peculiar humour (that will also look somewhat familiar if you have seen a few Thai budget movies from this era). I can blame Mill Creek for their bizarre assertion (repeated on the packaging of the films more than once) that the language spoken in Thailand is called "Taiwanese", though.

But I digress. So, if you have seen any other film of this type (is there a decent name for this sub-genre?), you'll probably know exactly what to expect from this one, and it will certainly not disappoint you.

As it is with every other movie in the Thai jungle zombie fu genre,  AWZ is a somewhat fun movie if you don't set your expectations to high. The humour is incredibly low-brow, but does at times manage to be funny by the simple virtue of the film visibly not caring where good taste allows the application of humour to a given situation and where not and just applying it whenever it seems to get bored by playing it straight, which happens quite frequently. So the film delivers bizarre details like the fantastic equipment kit of an evil magician complete with pocket calculator and a fire extinguisher whenever it gets tired of showing scenes of people fighting or praying against each other. The mock wrestling match where I expected an earnestly dramatic fight was especially funny. At times, the film feels like a more low-rent version of an early Jackie Chan movie, just with an even greater tendency to drift off in all imaginable directions, and Panna Rittikrai fighting with cigarettes.

Apart from the humour, you get not much acting and a lot of fighting that is actually better - because it's more creative - in the humorous fight scenes than in the more dramatic ones, and a wee little plot that only ever really gets moving in the film's last third.

It's what I call perfectly fine entertainment.


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