Vampire vs. Vampire


Reviewed by YTSL

Among the categories of films that I turn to whenever I feel a need to have some real weirdness in my movie diet, that which features the late Lam Ching Ying as an expert battler against all sorts of supernatural entities has never failed to astound as well as amuse and generally entertain.  Be they set in the present day or the not completely distant past, these horror comedies seem to be located in an alternate universe in which just about anything is possible.  For example, despite the title of this 1989 offering making it sound like vampires are the only creatures that Lam Ching Ying’s One Eyebrow Priest and his assistants (the two human ones of which are played by Chin Siu Ho and Lui Fong) have to deal with, such as a slimy blob, a female palm ghost (i.e., an apparition that resides inside of palm trees), a more human-shaped female ghost (of a murder victim whose wants her hidden body to be dug up and properly reburied) and quicksand also appear in this picture.  Also, where else would a kid vampire be considered cute as well as a good guy plus be treated like the favorite son of a (Taoist) priest?!

VAMPIRE VS VAMPIRE is further noteworthy for its main villain being a Western-style vampire -- dressed in formal black and white European cut clothing -- on whom Taoist spells don’t work too well (So the movie’s heroic Sifu -- Cantonese for “Teacher”, a respected honorific conferred on wise individuals as well as the title for kungfu masters and learned teachers -- has to use other means to combat him).  Early on in the film (which Lam Ching Ying directed as well as stars in), this pale-faced bloodsucker is identified as a former Christian priest who had been sent -- along with another “gweilo” missionary, who may well have been his first murder victim -- to proselytize in an unspecified rural section of China.  However, not only do they seem to have been completely unsuccessful at converting anyone to their faith but it also appears that they -- one inadvertently, the other less so -- it was who had brought a foreign kind of evil to plague the place.
Called in to diagnose -- by way of Feng Shui principles -- why miscellaneous misfortunes had befallen people in the area, VAMPIRE VS VAMPIRE’s bushy eye-browed protagonist finds such as bats in the village’s main water supply.  Although it is considered good luck among some Chinese peoples (e.g., the Hokkien and Teochew) for one bat to choose to reside in your abode, I guess that not many people would be amenable to a whole bunch of these creatures -- and especially if they’re of the vampiric kind -- hanging out in their area.  In any case, the One Eyebrow Priest’s discovery prompts the villagers in this movie to not only look for an alternative source of water but also get their local militia going on a search-and-destroy mission of any bats and dwellings favored by the animals that they can find.
In the process of conducting the latter, the local militia came across a group of five Christian -- but Asian -- nuns who looked to have been sent to replace the gone missing, and are presumed dead, priests.  If this were a Tsui Hark work, it would seem inevitable that the Christian women (who include those played by Joanna Chan and Regina Kent, and whose Mother Superior comes in the form of Maria Cordero) and the Taoist Priest and his assistants would clash.  Since it is not, the two groups seemed to immediately and pretty much recognize the other as a natural ally against the bumptious Village Captain (portrayed by Billy Lau) -- who had wanted to burn down the Church that the Sisters were setting about restoring to working condition -- as well as truly dark forces.
Like many other Hong Kong movies in which vampires figure, much of VAMPIRE VS VAMPIRE is more farcical comedic in nature than anything else (as is evidenced by it being a film in which the One Eyebrow Priest is likely to order his assistants to “Buy me panties without patterns”(!) and get into the kind of situation in which he finds himself drawerless while in the vicinity of five particularly religious -- and thus presumably extra modest -- women)).  However, the people who presented us with this lively offering also threw in a bit of romance and pathos plus a surprisingly moving musical vignette.  Additionally, this work -- which can call upon the martial arts talents of Lam Ching Ying and Chin Siu Ho, after all -- has fast and furious action aplenty along with its share of suspenseful moments, particularly after the villain of the piece is inadvertently re-activated -- by the Village Captain and his cousin (Sandra Ng gets to play a not very nice woman and also a vampire in this offering) -- and gets back to majorly lusting after human blood.

My rating for the film:  7.