Vampire Hunters (HK 2002)

Rating: **
Review Date: 11/29/08
Producer: Tsui Hark
Director: Wellson Chin
Screenplay: Tsui Hark
Cast: Ji Chun Hua, Yu Rong Guang, Anya

It used to be that having Tsui Hark's name attached to a film meant something special, but not anymore. While "Vampire Hunters" revisits the rich supernatural lore of earlier films like "A Chinese Ghost Story" (1987), it is lacking in everything that makes the genre such a treat. The film itself is well made and pretty to look at, but has no charisma or energy at all. It's as lifeless as the undead enemies that plague our heroes.

The plot is overly simple. A band of 17th century vampire hunters are chasing down the Vampire King when they get separated from their master (Ju Chun Hua). The four senior students end up at the mansion of Mr. Jiang (Yu Rong Guang) where they pose as servants while continuing to investigate zombie and vampire activity. A pretty girl (Anya) gets thrown into the mix as Jiang's unfortunate daughter-in-law, and has little to do other than be helpless and scream a lot. The Vampire King and the old master finally show up again at the end and an effects-laden battle takes place.

The whole production looks and feels like it was made for television and everything about it is overly tame. Only kung fu veterans Yu Rong Guang and Ju Chun Hua appear to be taking the whole thing seriously, and the intensity of their action scenes is actually pretty enjoyable. The martial arts choreography is quite good, although it relies on a lot of unconvincing wirework. Still, it's a great breath of fresh air after having seen so many utterly terrible fight scenes recently. The young actors that dominate the film drag it down considerably and have no charm or appeal. Is this A-list talent, or do they betray the film's budget and intended audience? By far the weakest element of the film is in the visual effects department. Digital effects are uninteresting and ineffective, and the physical effects and makeup are laughably bad. It's like all of the budget went into the sets and cinematography, and there was nothing left over for the effects team. Disappointing.