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Kung Fu Vampire Hunters (2002) - DVD/Rmvb torrent

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Torrent Description
Tsui Hark's Vampire Hunters (2002)

Vampire Hunters (2002)

AKA: The Era of the Vampires (HK title), Tsui Hark's Vampire Hunters (US alternate title)

Chinese vampire lore gets a modest update with Tsui Hark's Vampire Hunters, which contains decent martial arts action, but few chills and no real direction.

Gai Chun-wa plays Mao Shan, master of an organization of vampire hunters who face off against a particularly nasty vamp labeled the 'Vampire King.' Using chains and a Taoist sword, their attempts to subdue it set off a methane explosion that allows the creature to escape. Three months later, Mao Shan's four lead students named Thunder, Wind, Rain, and Lightning trace the vampire to the site of a dreary wedding ceremony at the home of Master Jiang (Yu Rong-guang), a creepy fellow who likes to preserve dead bodies as wax statues. Unable to locate the monster with their Taoist compass, the four find employment with Jiang and soon discover another problem. A vicious martial arts master is out to get his hands on the Jiang family treasure and sends Sasa, his sister to marry Jiang's son. Not surprisingly, Jiang's son dies soon after and Sasa is left in a sprawling, rundown home while her brother hires a 'Zombie Wrangler' (Chen Kuan-tai) to wake Jiang's wax-covered companions, thereby creating a diversion while he grabs the gold. Enter a smitten Thunder who becomes Sasa's protector while his three companions continue their search for the vampire. Following an undead stampede and the vampire's reappearance, the four heroes do battle with a little help from their master.

This film is not as bad as some critics have made it out to be. If you only compare it to Tsui Hark's better films, then you'll surely be disappointed. The poor effects work and a convoluted story do not help much. But what Vampire Hunters has going for it is some very solid action choreography courtesy of veteran stuntman, turned action director Tam Jan-dung (Legend of the Wolf) and good casting. The camaraderie among the heroes is convincing while Gai Chun-wa anchors the film with his portrayal of a hardened master vampire killer. Comparisons to the late Lam Ching-ying are unavoidable. Ching-ying defined the role after years of playing Taoist masters fighting supernatural evils. Chun-wa, ironically is better known for his villainous roles (Fong Sai Yuk II), but is capable of making his strong presence and menacing looks work for good or evil. Although past his physical prime, he still does a great job of selling his fight scenes.

While its nice to see them in action, two other veterans do not fair quite as well. Chen Kuan-tai (The Iron Bodyguard), one-time Shaw Brothers superstar makes an appearance as a Zombie Wrangler with a very strange hairdo. What an ignoble role for someone who once wowed audiences with his kung fu mastery and strength. He still looks strong, but the role is generally reserved for unusual character or comedy actors and he is neither. The other miscast award goes to Yu Rong-guang, another strong martial arts actor, always with great potential who ends up in the token Vincent Price role. Vampires notwithstanding, Master Jiang is the oddest character in the film. He keeps dozens of dead people encased in wax around his home. The filmmakers really screwed up a great opportunity for either some great humor or macabre situations by doing virtually nothing with this character or casting a more colorful actor.

There is some, but not that much wirework in the action sequences. The swordplay scenes are well-executed, especially the duel between Ken Cheung and Yu. There could have been more gadgets or gimmicks to spice up the action. Lam Suet does wield nifty darts attached to rope that he appears to 'fire' from his clenched fist, while Chun-wa gets the ivory-handled sword. But the rest of the main heroes do not seem to be well-equipped to do battle with the undead. I was especially disappointed with Tsui Hark's final solution to the vampire problem. After a forgettable fight, they went for the quick and easy approach.

A mixed blessing comes in the form of art direction that refreshingly shies away from the traditional 'hopping vampire in blue, Qing Dynasty robes' that became firmly established with the popular Mr. Vampire series in the mid-eighties. The sets, lighting, and colors used maintain the look of genre films in Hong Kong a decade earlier without improving on it. Now unfortunately, the make-up effects and computer effects take several hops backward in development. It wasn't a bad idea to portray the film's only vampire as a decaying corpse that draws blood out of his victims from several feet away. The maggots squirming around on his face in one close-up are a nice touch, but everything else looks cheesy. Most shots of the vampire look like they replaced his head with a 4-year old's clay art project. Pretty much all of the computer effects, such as the snake and the pyrotechnics look horrible.

Its understood that this is not a 'big budget' Chinese film like Hero, and expectations should not be high. But with effects this poor, they should have observed the most important rule of horror filmmaking; less is more. Of course, we're on the subject of Hong Kong film here where excess is usually the order of the day. Unfortunately, Vampire Hunters falls somewhere in between, in a place known only as 'The Mediocre Zone.'

- Mark Pollard

Download Kung Fu Vampire Hunters (2002) - DVD/Rmvb torrent

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