Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Jiang shi xian sheng xu ji (1986)

... aka: Geung si sin saang juk jaap
... aka: Mr. Vampire II
... aka: Return of Mr. Vampire, The

Directed by:
Ricky Lau

An immediate, mostly unrelated and from all indications rushed follow-up to the 1985 horror-comedy hit MR. VAMPIRE, this one moves to a modern day setting and unwisely concentrates on crude adult-oriented comedy, cutesy / cloying kid humor and syrupy sentimentaility than it does on the action and horror. Despite being made by the same people and featuring much of the same cast, this fails to pull off the impressive balancing act the original film did. Professor Kwok (Fat Chung) and two of his bumbling students (Billy Lau and Lee Fung) stumble upon a bunch of centuries-old remains. They then discover a cave, some jewels and the surprisingly well-preserved corpses of a couple and their young son; all of whom have the yellow spell paper attached to their forehead... at least for the time being. They're taken back to the lab. The professor and one of his flunkies decide to head out to try to sell the little boy's corpse and, on their way to their destination, the paper blows off the kid's head and he manages to escape into the woods. Meanwhile back at the lab, the other guy removes the paper from the adult corpses and they're resurrected as vampires. One bites him before the professor returns to help contain them. They're re-papered, wrapped in aluminum foil and put in shipping crates.

The bitten guy's infected arm gets worse, so he goes to medicine shoppe owner Cheng-ying Lin (Ching-Ying Lam, still rocking an impressive unibrow) to help. Noticing his injuries are in line with a vampire attack, Cheng-ying decides to investigate with help from his soon-to-be son-in-law Jen (Biao Yuen), a reporter and annoying camera fetishist who can't stop taking pictures of everything. Jen stupidly decides to break into the lab, removes the corpses from their crates to take a picture with them and removes the yellow papers. The vampires return to life yet again. Mr. Lin and his daughter Gigi (Moon Lee) show up for a long slow-motion fight scene when a jar of "retarder" is busted and sedates everyone.

Meanwhile, the little boy vampire ends up hiding out near the home of Mr. Hu (Fung Woo), a widower with two cherubic (read: chubby) kids. His young daughter Chia-Chia discovers the vampire boy hiding out in their greenhouse and, after watching a TV news program about illegal immigrant children, decides to sneak him into her bedroom. He hides out in her closet and makes her toys float. Chia-Chia introduces the docile undead boy (who they nickname "OK Kid") to her brother and then to her other friends (who the subtitles tell us have names like "Glutinous Rice Chicken" and "Trussed Duck Feet" [??]). The next day, they slap a pair of sunglasses on the vampi-kid, wrap his head in a scarf and take him to a playground where he does funky things on the slide and teeter totter, protects them from bullies and sneaks over to a blood bank for a little afternoon snack. By the way, these scenes are clearly meant to parody E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial (1982).

The film then devolves into a lame fight over the vampire couple; with Mr. Lin and Jen wanting to kill them before things get out of hand and Professor Kwok and his assistants wanting to capture and sell them. One thing leads to another and the vampire couple manage to burst out of a burning truck and wreak a little havoc on some motorists and police officers on their way down the road. Watching a live news broadcast of the vampire couples rampage, their boy begins to wail because he misses them. His vamparents hear his call and head toward Mr. Hu's house to get him back. Touching it is not.

All of this seems more geared toward children than adults, but the occasional off-color joke about necrophilia, virginity or AIDS (plus a scene where a snake gets in a guy's pants and looks like a hard-on) should really keep this out of the reach of the wee ones. There's still some decent fight choreography and good stuntwork here (including a great scene of the vampires hopping from car roof to car roof and then over a wall), but the humor is extremely juvenile and misses the mark for the most part, the characters are more annoying than endearing and it's not near as smoothly directed or imaginative as Lau's first entry.

After being pleasantly surprised by the thoroughly enjoyable original, I was really stoked about watching the rest of this series. All Part 2 managed to do was send me crashing back down to Earth and to the reality that most sequels fail miserably at recapturing the magic of their predecessor... even when they're filmed immediate after by the exact same people.



spookyx3 said...

already on an HK kick, and doubting my own long-held opinion _yet again_, i took another look at this last night. pleased to say, it still works for me. the pleasingly small scale, the look, even the kid-hijinx -- bought it all hook line and sinker. i will give you i got slightly antsy around the time of the ether set-piece.

saw the first MV at the turn of the '90s and waited seven years to see the follow-up... it's almost like it _needed_ to be good. the way the initial vampire workshop bit hooked me, they coulda done anything (they pretty much did!) and i'd have gone with it. plus, MVII always strongly evokes happier times / circumstances around my first viewing, enhancing the experience, so there's no defending this one. i can see what you said in your review is pretty much true.

spookyx3 said...

tenth viewing. one of my go-to pick-me-ups, the references two illegal immigrants & "OK-boy" separated from his parents dampens the escapism factor. those main set-pieces i put so much stock in before didn't work this time. still has immense sentimental/nostalgic value.

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

I will get around to re-watching these one day. I watched them when I was just starting to get into HK movies so I may not have processed some of this (esp. the humor) properly. lol

spookyx3 said...

possibly PROJECT A or WHEELS ON MEALS, something with at least one of "the three dragons" i saw first, circa 1990, and i've been chasing that high since then. changed everything.

in light of my unexpected reaction to MVII, i'm mulling over whether or not to re-see certain other long-time favorites (based on 20-25 year old memories) that are back in the pile. ENCOUNTERS OF THE SPOOKY KIND is probably still a hit, but for whatever reason i have a feeling i might've overrated THE DEAD AND THE DEADLY (1982).

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

I haven't seen any of those you mentioned. In fact I was just checking my LB list of HK horror of the 80s and I have *barely* watched over 20%. Still so much more left to go! The next two I'm gonna watch are your rec He Lives by Night and then another rec The Seventh Curse. I've heard pretty good things about both so that might get me back on a HK kick.

spookyx3 said...

saw HE LIVES again recently. imagine argento in hong kong. goes a little far out with kent cheng putting the moves on sylvia chang, but wouldn't be golden-age HK without some kind of inappropriateness and stupid humor wedged in there.

i haven't been _that_ impressed with any of the lam nai-choi i've seen (even/especially STORY OF RICKY). maybe his early shaw dramas are my best bet. will try to take another look at SEVENTH CURSE in time for the review.

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

OK, I've now watched both of these (and liked BOTH a lot) but still working on the reviews. That's ironic you wrote that about Nai-Choi Lam because in my notes about Seventh Curse I wrote about how much I liked the three movies I've seen of his! Her Vengeance is probably my favorite thus far. Seventh Curse was good and I do like Story of Ricky though I enjoyed Curse and Vengeance more.

He Lives was a lot of fun, stylish and surprisingly funny in spots. Definitely picked up the giallo flavor (similar to the previous year's 'Corpse Mania'). I like the comedy / romance parts contrasted with the twisted serial killer plot. For some reason, the genre mashups from HK tend to work better for me than most other countries. I think a lot of that has to do with how they wholly commit to it, sink or swim.

spookyx3 said...

did something of a shock 180 on CURSE, which replaces the slight, messy PEACOCK KING (1989) as my favorite of his! really interested to see HER VENGEANCE and the others in light of that. can't put my finger on why i don't connect with STORY OF RICKY.

looking forward to the HE LIVES write-up. i like what i've seen from po-chih leong. had a blast with THE ISLAND, and PING PONG -- his english-language drama set in london's chinatown -- made my best-of '86 list forever ago (that tape now has a mold problem). i suspect there are a few more winners on his resume.

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

I think you're about half a mile ahead of me on HK cinema! I've yet to see Peacock King, The Island and a lot of other ones you've seen. Actually just watched the first half of Dennis Yu's The Beasts last night before bed and I'm not entirely sure how I'm feeling about it right now. Plan on finishing that up later tonight.

spookyx3 said...

horror-wise, you probably have the edge. just 18% seen of your HK et al. LB list.

tough for me to be objective about BEASTS. i almost always find rape-revengers (and also "captive" horrors) too difficult to watch. i was interested in the director, and i like kent cheng obviously, but the foreboding going in, my usual despair at the cruel villains... overrides everything else.

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

Last time I checked I was 21 percent on the HK list so just barely! It *feels* like I've watched more than that but I guess I'm probably further behind on Asian cinema due to their spotty availability here in the U.S. over the years.

However, I am now over 50 percent on Kent Cheng 80s horrors. The ones left I need to see are The Saviour, Soul Ash (which doesn't appear to be available), Lifeline Express, Vampire Buster and Ghost Legend. I'm going to try to get The Beasts review done end of this month after I finish three more of the recs.

spookyx3 said...

of those, i've seen VAMPIRE BUSTER. could've sworn lam ching ying was in it, then figured out i was thinking of EXORCIST MASTER (1992). there's just too many of these things to keep them straight!

i loved cheng in WHY ME? and MR. SMART.

The Bloody Pit of Horror said...

There definitely are way too many. I wonder how many are still missing from my LB list. Also a lot that really put into question if they should even be considered horror or not. Only way to find out is to watch them! And if I watch one with ghosts, vampires, etc. that's more fantasy or comedy than horror I'll still review it here.

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