Sunday, December 18, 2016

In short: Vampire Buster (1989)

aka Ninja Vampire Busters

Original tile: 捉鬼大師

Mainland China. A horde of enraged fans of one Chairman Moa (that’s what the subtitles call him) – coming rather late to the Cultural Revolution - storms the house of Buddhist magician Cheung Sap Yat (Kent Cheng Jak-Si) to smash superstition. In practice, that seems to mean the furniture. Things nearly go too far when the – alas torchless – mob attempts to destroy a very special vase that holds a centuries-old black magician turned demon imprisoned. Cheung manages to prevent the smashing, but only by throwing the vase into the sea. You really couldn’t get away with this sort of thing in Chinese Hong Kong cinema now.

Anyway, the cursed things soon enough washes up in Hong Kong, where it finds its way to an auction house, and then into the possession of rich guy and city councillor Stephen Kay (Stanley Fung Sui-Fan). Thanks to the stupidity of fake fortune teller and fake feng shui expert Chan (Nat Chan Pak-Cheung), the demon is set free, possessing Kay and other members of his household – that also includes his mother (Hung Mei), his son (Jacky Cheung Hok-Yau), his son’s girlfriend (Elsie Chan Yik-Si) and his own trophy girlfriend (Anglie Leung Wan-Yui) – on its way to doing Something Very Evil.

Fortunately, Cheung illegally immigrates to Hong Kong for some demon killing before the thing can get ideas like possessing Kay, becoming president of Hong Kong and building a wall on the border to Mexico.

On the scale of Hong Kong horror, or rather supernatural comedy, Stanley Siu Ga-Wing’s and Norman Law Man’s Vampire Buster (which doesn’t actually feature a vampire, be it Chinese or Western style), lands somewhere in the middle of the quality scale. It certainly isn’t a Mr Vampire, but it also isn’t one of those films that randomly stitch together supposedly funny scenes that aren’t, rape jokes and crap wire fu and pretends it’s all in good fun.

Rather, this is an actual movie with an actual plot, generally consistent characterisation (most characters are of course comedically cowardly, whereas comrade Cheung is of course an overweight badass surrounded by idiots), decently funny jokes – at least as far as I can make out through cultural distance and pretty bad subtitles – and perfectly okay filmmaking.

The last thirty minutes or so are even actually charming and fun, the film going through all the hallmarks of HK horror comedy and a bit of mild weird fu with genuine enthusiasm, providing lots and lots of blue light and dry ice fog while various people fly through the air, mystical glowing symbols are drawn on body parts, and various bodies are possessed by various spirits.

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