Thursday, August 6, 2009
Cub Chin's The Vampire Who Admires Me (2008)
Lacking any discerning taste for cinema, I will watch just about anything. One of my truest of guilty pleasures is Hong Kong horror/comedy, a combination of slapstick and mostly low-brow comedy (which can get really low at times) and often supernatural scares (which sometimes are quite creepy) heaped upon superstitious bumblers in the most contrived situations. Save a handful of films, the HK horror/comedy genre is not revered by most film fans but to those wanting a fix of the unusual, this genre strives to deliver. Lured by its sensational promotional art and its wonderful, English-translated title, Cub Chin's The Vampire Who Admires Me (2008) got a spin from this fan looking for a fix. With the credits glowing in neon characters upon gravestones with a throaty narrator quoting from the book of sayings which Confucius did not say about vampire/ghost lore in a rambling fashion, I knew that The Vampire Who Admires Me was going to be a treat. Cut to a couple in the cemetery laying in front of a headstone, with the portrait of a distinguished-looking older gentleman at its head, and the two are about to do the deed. Unfortunately, the young lady cannot proceed any further, because "someone" is looking. The young gentleman, in truly gentlemanly fashion, tosses a coat over the portrait for her comfort. Compounding problems for both is the cut on the young lady's hand, deep enough to draw a stream of blood, which lands smack on the grave and into the corpse below. The young lady's blood gave a little frisson to the corpse which is now reanimated. The two decide to leave and while walking away, the young woman gets pulled into the ground by a rotting hand rising above.Cut to the awakening of lovely Macy, who's late for her appointment this morning. Her equally lovely friend Bibi arrives and the two depart to their photo shoot, where top model and diva, Chelsea is about to burst on to the scene. Young, handsome and wealthy Mr. King is running the model shoot, under the coordination of lovely Kimchi and the flamboyant photographer, Roman (Sam Lee). With two other models, all clad in skimpy bikinis, with Chelsea laying in a coffin as a centerpiece, Roman begins snapping photos. Unfortunately, the mood which Roman is attempting to evoke is not right. Mr. King has a villa on East Dragon Island and would he mind, so very much, if the shoot is moved there? No, not at all.There are three police officers, Wayne, Mann, and Fine, on East Dragon Island, and save Uncle Faye's pissing in front of the police station, there is no crime to speak of on the island. The models and crew arrive via ferry for their photo shoot. Wayne and Mann are quite excited about that but not really excited about their new boss, the lovely Ms. Chui. She's by-the-books and stickler for the rules. Upon arrival at the villa, Mr. King wonders where his servant, named Victor, has gone. Victor appears and looks sickly. He is also the young gentleman from the coupling in the cemetery at the beginning. At the police station, while Ms. Chui chews out the officers for their lackadaisical style and poor investigative techniques, a older woman arrives with a complaint. Her daughter, Jill, has been missing for the last three days. Good, says Ms. Chui, the officers have a crime to solve. Jill is the young lady from the coupling in the cemetery at the beginning. Let the hijinx ensue.The script of The Vampire Who Admires Me is from the brain of HK film maker, Jing Wong, who also serves as producer. The life and filmography and discussion of Wong is more suitable for a tome and is well beyond the scope of this entry. However, it is suffice to say the prolific Wong's cinema is often synonymous with sensational and commercial cinema, often exploitative and sometimes offensive. A favorite Wong film of mine is God of Gamblers (1989), starring Yun-fat Chow. The humor in Vampire ranges from low-brow toilet humor, where a police officer attempting to defecate in an open field gets scared by an approaching vampire, which makes him unable to relieve himself, to quite offensive sexual humor, played out in the lightest of tones. The comedy in the middle of that spectrum is of the slapstick kind. Often there is a vampire chase of its victims around corners and through doors, up and down stairs, and from outside to inside (a staple motif in the genre). The fx are ridiculously poor but the fx would stick out like sore thumb if they were done well. The charm of Vampire (and of the HK horror/comedy genre) lies in its familiarity and formulas. So the only thing new about a film is the performers in front of the camera and those behind the camera, perhaps. All of the actors are likable and give energized performances.Cub Chin directed one film prior to Vampire. He is credited with the screenplay for Oxide and Danny Pang's Re-Cycle (2006) and Danny Pang's Forest of Death (2007). He also served as an assistant director, for example on the Pang Brothers' The Eye (2002) and The Messengers (2007). Not surprisingly, along with surely the contribution of Wong, Chin's Vampire is a lot slicker looking than its low-budget would have its viewer believe. The poor-CGI and the neon colors in the graveyard (and at the vampire king's tomb) are overt flourishes to emphasize the low-budget; whereas the expository scenes are clean and commercial and fluid and competent. If you are a fan of say, Wilson Yip's Bio-Zombie (1998), then you kind of know what to expect. If you really loved say, Ricky Lau's Mr. Vampire (1985), then you would probably like The Vampire Who Admires Me. If neither of those two titles ring a bell with you, then forget that I ever said anything.