Film reviews

Mr Vampire (1985) – Blu-ray Review

Vampire movies are always popular. Whether it’s something dark and horrific, or a comedy, or even a romance story, there’s just something about these creatures that seems to grab people’s attention. One type of vampire that hardly seems to get any attention, however, is the Jiangshi, or the Chinese hopping vampire.

Mr Vampire is not just one of the best examples of a Jiangshi film, but is the movie that led to something of a Chinese vampire film revolution, spawning four sequels, and countless imitators. Lovingly restored and presented in high definition, this new release from Eureka Entertainment is a must for horror-comedy fans, and anyone interested in the golden age of 80’s Hong Kong cinema.

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The film follows Master Gau (Ching-Ying Lam), a Taoist priest, and his two bumbling assistants Man Choi (Ricky Lau) and Chou Sheng (Chin Siu-Ho). Master Gau is a well respected member of the community, and uses magic to help maintain control over harmful spirits and vampires. When he’s approached by a local businessman to help rebury his father, in order to bring better prosperity to his family, Master Gau agrees. However, when the coffin is raised from the ground they find that the body hasn’t decomposed, leading Gau to suspect that it has become a vampire. When the body is brought back to his home for further study it revives and escapes. Now it’s down to Gau and his assistants to find and stop the vampire that’s terrorising the town.

Mr Vampire is a great movie. It manages to walk the line between horror and ridiculousness very well, especially thanks to the strangeness of the Jiangshi. Due to rigor mortis in the body, Chinese vampires have to hop to get around, leading to tense moments of people being stalked by vampires feeling a little silly. Rather than fighting against this the movie embraces this silliness and actually has some great comedic moments too.

You get small moments, like a ghost stalking Chou Sheng getting knocked off the back of his bike by a low branch, but also entire scenes that are just there solely to get a laugh. There’s one moment where Chou Sheng thinks a woman coming into the shop to buy make-up is a sex worker, and the conversation they have is laugh out loud funny when she’s telling him how she learnt to put on make-up as a child thanks to her mother, and he thinks she’s talking about sex work. It’s so farcical and ridiculous, but it made me so endeared to the characters and set up early on that the film didn’t take itself too seriously and had a good sense of humour.

The film also has some great action sequences, and the fights with the vampires are creative and fun. There are some especially impressive stunts that make great use of the environments to make the sequences more dynamic, and it’s easy to see why Hong Kong cinema has some of the best practical stunt work in the world.

The new Blu-ray comes with some great interviews with cast members that goes into some of these moments in greater detail too. In one of the interviews Chin Siu-Hou tells the audience how he had to do a 14 foot jump with no crash-mats a number of times, despite hurting himself on the first jump. These interviews give great little background titbits like this that makes the film interesting to watch a second time around, having learnt a little more about the production of the movie. The extras also come with a full commentary from Asian film expert Frank Djeng that’s incredibly informative and fascinating.

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I had a great time watching through Mr Vampire, and the extras on offer on the disc just added to this enjoyment as I found myself wanting to learn more about this crazy, fun movie that went on to have such a big impact on Hong Kong cinema. The film was fun and entertaining, with genuinely great comedy, some cool horror moments, and action sequences that really impressed. I hope that Eureka give the same kind of treatment to the other movies in the franchise too, as I’d love to see more.

Mr Vampire is out on Blu-ray on 20th July from Eureka Entertainment.

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