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.


1 comment:

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.

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