Sunday, April 18, 2010

WTF China?!?: Shaolin vs. Evil Dead

This movie is really odd, so let me try and explain this.  If you are not aware, this was a big trend in the '70s of making 'hopping vampires' movies in China.  Seriously, they hop.  Why?  They never really say.  Their vampires are weird demons in robes that hop up and down in pursuit of victims.  As a side note, Lake of Dracula is the only mainstream, Chinese vampire film to feature a normal Dracula.  Jump to 2004, the producers of this movie attempted to make- I believe- a film that is both an homage to those movies and an update to them.  They got two notable genre actors: Gordon Liu and Fan Siu-Wong (aka Louis Fan).  The first name is pretty familiar, but the second one may not be.  If you don't know, Wong was the star of Riki-Oh, one of the most awesomely-ridiculous movies ever made.  He hasn't really done a whole lot else of note, so let's stick with that.  This movie is...well, weird.  Part comedy, part action, part horror and one tiny part romance.  This is...
Our story begins with the Taoist Master leading a troupe of vampires through the street at night.  He is accompanied by his two students, a brother pair that don't look related in the slightest.  The reason for this trip is to take the vampires to a mortuary and allow them to be reincarnated.  Naturally, the best plan is to lead them through occupied areas to do so!  The movie is quick to explain the hopping (it's harder for them to run away) and the outstretched-arm pose (it's so they don't bump into each other) that characterizes the monsters.  Um, thanks...I guess.  Our heroes are hungry and stop in a restaurant, while the Master stays outside for no good reason.  They settle in and get their food, but the Master suspects something when maggots fall from the ceiling.  As it turns out, the place is actually full of zombies!  That sure is random, movie!  They fight the creatures with kung-fu and magic, but are getting overwhelmed.  A hot chick shows up and kicks some ass before another Taoist Master shows up to finish the job.  That man (Wong) is the former friend and fellow student of our hero (Liu).  To make things perfectly clear, the other Master is a complete jerk, uses dark magic and wears all black.  Thanks, I get it!
The next day, we get more randomness as the older student asks why the Master had the younger one pee on the floor for a spell and not him.  He even flashes the man (off-camera, thankfully) before they move on.  Why?  Incidentally, they were putting the spirits in eggs during the fight and the young student swallowed one by accident.  There's a pay-off to this, but it's weird as shit!  We get a romance sub-plot involving the hot woman student and the older student.  After some slapstick, he woos her with some tofu jelly, but she leaves all the same.  When tofu jelly on a suspension bridge fails, what could possibly work?!?  They run into the bad Taoist again as he steals a soul from Liu and sets it loose in the town to cause trouble for him.  He shows up to get rid of it, proving that our film can rip off Dragonheart and The Frighteners in one fell swoop!  We get another confrontation, but the bad one wins this round.  He hangs around the town and uses the Virgin Exorcist Spell (seriously) to turn the young boys of the town into kung-fu masters.  The good Master shows up and reveals this to be a black magic mind-control spell, which makes them instantly turn on the bad Master.  In turn, he uses magic to battle Liu and company in Spirit Chess, using the kids as pawns.  Naturally, they summon paper warriors in the form of young Buddhist monks to battle him.  No, really.
Our villain doesn't take losing well and gives a long, drunken explanation of the back-story between him and Liu to his student.  To get revenge, he opens up a grave to find some new power sources.  He ends up waking a vampire and must battle him.  He escapes, but the vampire just gets out later and kills some people in a bar.  They battle again and he loses...sort of.  Back in Plot A, the kid finally expels the spirit inside of his body by running into an outhouse...causing it to explode.  A freaky, zombie baby covered in foam is born and follows the kid around calling him 'mommy.'  A better name for this is the one given to it by my friends and I though: a shit zombie.  The Master takes this in stride...for some reason and takes the zombie/ghost thing with them.  They show up in the bar and learn that the bad Master has been possessed.  A battle ensues, but it does not go in favor of our heroes.  The zombie baby leaps onto a pile of magical scrolls and kamikaze bombs the villain.  Our heroes run outside and...the movie ends abruptly.  No closure for you!  Instead, we get two minutes of shots during the credits that will end up in the sequel...released two years later.
I've got to be honest: this movie is weird as shit!  It never knows what it wants to be and I don't know how to classify it.  It's sort of a comedy at times, but that is often tossed aside.  In many ways, it is a horror film, what with the zombies and vampires showing up.  The scary factor often gives way to the film's real focus: martial arts.  We get all the weird and cliched tricks, including flipping and people flying around when tossed.  Physics is not a word that exists in this universe!  Seriously, the plot is so odd and random.  For example, they leave the vampires outside for the restaurant fight & pick them up in the next scene.  That whole plot element vanishes when they are put to rest & is replaced with the spirit one.  That too seems to vanish when the eggs are placed in the dirt and turn into...CG butterflies.  Of course, that comes back with the kid's plot...that ends as abruptly as the film itself.  How do I classify it?  Well, if you like kung-fu movies with weird effects, a random plot and some horror elements, this is for you!
After the terrible and abrupt ending, I bet you're anxious to see how it all ends.  I had to wait two years, so you can wait one day.  Stay tuned...

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