Mr. Vampire!!

Mr. Vampire – 1985, Ricky Lau – Hong Kong


We Westerners love our horror comedies. We’re into all the classic, spook-a-minute chuckle-fests, be they Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein, An American Werewolf in London, Or Sexsquatch: Legend of Blood Stool Creek, those films are our jam, and thanks to a lifelong cultural indoctrination, we proud people have all come to know that violence is funny, and that the gruesome and the hilarious go together like chocolate and peanut butter.


What would you say, however, if I were to tell you that Asia had done us one better, and that they had taken this winning formula and added a third element? That’s right! Prepare yourself, for Hong Kong’s Mr. Vampire, because this film is an open portal to a whole new world, to the realm of the MARTIAL ARTS/HORROR/COMEDY, and friend, those three things go together like chocolate, peanut butter, and wicked sweet karate chops.


The best films of this type came out of the Hong Kong genre film boom of the 1980’s, and while Mr. Vampire isn’t the first movie to meld these three wonderful ingredients together, it’s absolutely my favorite. Americans don’t seem to know about Mr. Vampire yet, but it’s honestly not out of line to call this one of the greatest horror comedies ever made. We need to get familiar with it.

THE PLOT- When a prominent  citizen seeks to dig up and then rebury his father for good luck (Apparently that’s allowed in Hong Kong? Even encouraged?!) he seeks out the help of a cunning priest and his two bumbling assistants to make sure this grave desecration is all done by the book, but lo and behold, something is amiss, and when the grave is exhumed, it’s occupant is found to be a damn vampire. This sets off a freaky Asian vampire chain reaction, and the hijinks which follow are of a most wacky variety indeed.


First thing I need to clarify- These are not the typical “white guy in a cape” style European variety vampires that most Americans are familiar with. The blood suckers in this movie are the famed Chinese “hopping vampires,” a breed of ghoul which literally hops around in order to move, due to a debilitating stiffness of the body, brought on by rigor mortis. Additionally, these creatures are thought to be blind, and thus must seek out their victims by listening for the sound of a beating heart- meaning that holding your breath and standing still can make you “invisible” to them, at least, until you have to breathe again. Of course, there are one or two vampires in this film who seem to be exceptions to those rules, but I don’t know how the whole Chinese vampire thing works, dude. All I know is that most of these guys hop around, and I love it.


Conga line- OF THE DAMMED! (Those are all vampires following that dude.)

Mr. Vampire is really, really great. As mentioned above, it’s a martial arts/horror/comedy, but the movie clearly aims for laughs above all else, and in fact, all of the horror and kung fu stuff is done in the service of humor, so even at it’s scariest, or in the heat of it’s most strenuously choreographed fight scene, Mr. Vampire never wants you to be too far away from a smile. The narrative seems to be closely modeled after what you might see in an old-fashioned stage play, it’s all simple, character driven, misunderstanding based comedic routines which largely take place in small, single room spaces, and which are broken down into individual, self-contained chunks. Mr. Vampire could work equally well in a live theater format as it does on the big screen, and this old fashioned style of narrative has a certain specialness built into it which is a woefully absent from movies today. Another factor which helps give Mr. Vampire a classic feel is it’s relatively clean subject matter. It’s not exactly G rated, there are a few suggestive jabs here and there which will raise eyebrows amongst those with more puritanical sensibilities, but Mr. Vampire is more cheeky than it is smutty. It’s a film with an inherent, lighthearted innocence, and even for a deranged and diseased mind like mine, that’s nice once in a while.

The Kung Fu sequences in this picture are all great, too, and they don’t overstay their welcome, we have just enough of them that when one comes around, it’s exciting, and never boring. Part of Mr. Vampire’s recipe for kung-fu success is that even these fight scenes are meant to be humorous, they don’t feel violent so much as wacky, so it’s really easy to have fun watching them even if you don’t have any interest in Kung Fu whatsoever.

There are very few flaws worth mentioning in Mr. Vampire, it has a few hokey special effects, but they’re hokey due to vintage, not laziness or ineptitude, so they end up feeling more charming than embarrassing. There is also a subplot in here about one of the bumbling assistants being seduced by a female ghost which probably would have been written out if this were shot in the west, because it doesn’t really drive the plot forward in any direct way. I don’t count this subplot as a mark against Mr. Vampire, however, because it further contributes to the old fashioned feel of the film, and also results in some really fun sequences I wouldn’t want to lose, regardless of the structural “imperfections.” Let’s not be script Nazis, Mr. Vampire can have its ghost subplot if it wants to.

Maybe the biggest flaw that people tend to point out about Mr. Vampire is that it ISN’T Spooky Encounters, another excellent martial arts horror comedy which preceded this film by five years. Aledgley, this movie is a bit of a retread, which I guess is true… Mr. Vampire probably wouldn’t exist if Spooky Encounters hadn’t been made first, but in my mind, this is the superior movie. I’d call Mr. Vampire ‘The Formula Perfected’ before I called it a rehashing, and to date I’ve never seen a better Martial Arts/Horror/Comedy, and brother, I have certainly tried.

mr vampire

Thematically, there is some stuff in here about Modernization versus tradition; the film takes place in Hong Kong during an era where the British have brought in European customs with modern forms of government and policing, yet by and large, the people of China prefer to operate as they have for generations, and this sets up an interesting conflict for our main characters. As traditional Taoists priests, they find themselves compelled to work toward the good of the people by using traditional methods, exclusively based upon spiritualism, while the newly modernized police force regards their practices, and even the threat of vampirism itself as total mumbo jumbo. As a result, these police function more as an impediment to our characters than anything else, and this is a major source of conflict early on in Mr. Vampire. Later in the film, however, after things have passed the point of no return, vampire style, the police finally accept their inability to deal with the now all-too-obvious ghoul epidemic, and the film switches gears ever so slightly. Suddenly, and for the first time, the vampire threat starts to look a little bit more like a biological plague, as if only now, with things at their worst, does the movie start to consider the notion that perhaps our Priests don’t know what they’re doing, and perhaps spiritualism really has become obsolete in serving the needs of a modernized society? At this point, when even the police have put their faith in religion to save the day, we begin to see our stalwart Taoist in a position of weakness and doubt, and he seems to feel unsure about his ability to combat this threat after all. This short sequence is Mr. Vampire at it’s most introspective, but it’s quite subtle. Still, if you had to point out any specific centerpiece for the film’s chief metaphor, it would be the scene I’m talking about here.

The movie does a good job with these ideas, and we end up with an interesting back and forth that investigates the grey area you get when a culture with deep roots in tradition tries to jump ahead a few centuries overnight, with some areas taking longer to catch up than others. It’s well done, but these sombre and contemplative moments are fairly brief. I know that it may not seem like it after I’ve highlighted them in this way, but these themes are actually explored so casually that they could almost be in here by accident. Mr Vampire, is about those ideas, yes, but it really is about comedy first and foremost. Even at it’s darkest, Mr. Vampire is far from a heavy experience, it stays lighthearted, fun, and is periodically, legitimately hilarious.

This truly is a fantastic example of the mighty martial arts/horror/comedy sub-genre, and damn, it’s super deserving of some long overdue praise from we Western audiences. It would also make an excellent double feature alongside Roman Polanksi’s The Fearless Vampire Killers, but I would suggest you do anything you need to do to see Mr. Vampire asapbecause it’s a freakin’ masterpiece.


Rock N’ Roll Nightmare!!!

Rock N’ Roll Nightmare – 1987, John Fasano


Rock N’ Roll Nightmare promotes itself as being a cool, Canadian made horror film filled with gruesome monsters, hot babes, and a fantastic heavy metal soundtrack. In reality, the only one of those things that it actually manages to be is Canadian. This film is successfully Canadian.

Written by and starring Z-Grade hair metal singer Jon Mikl Thor, it follows a supposedly popular heavy metal band called Triton as they bed down in an isolated Canadian farmhouse turned studio for a month in hopes of recording new material. Don’t let the rural setting fool you, this is a hard rockin’, chart toppin’ juggernaut of a heavy metal band, so expect to see these rowdy rock stars on their worst behavior! Oh, yeah, you’re gonna see a whole lot of:

  • Being Polite
  • Reading Quietly before bed
  • Staying positive
  • And doing the dishes, as seen here:

feel the metal

Whoo- Rock and roll!

Seriously- I thought these guys were a heavy metal band!!! In the 80’s!!!! Do you have any idea how often people do the dishes in this movie? It’s absolutely ridiculous, it happens over and over again- In 90 minutes they do they dishes more often than I do in a week. Motley Crüe didn’t do the dishes, they probably didn’t even have dishes! What the hell is going on here?!?!


THESE are your ROCK STARS?!?!

Well… They are Canadian… And anyway, I guess it’s not really fair to call them total prudes- they do pack in kind of a lot of sex scenes into this movie.

ugly horrible people

 Including one where these two get it on. I bet you’re all real excited for that.

So, considering that Triton is a band which would probably look more at home slinging religion door to door than touring with Def Leppard, you might assume then that their secluded recording session in the Canadian countryside would be a pleasant, productive affair, but friend, that’s where you’d be wrong; dead wrong!

You see, while working on their new material, all of which is just terrible, by the way, Triton is plagued by two dark, wretched entities. Firstly; there is an enigmatic, creeping force of pure evil, sent straight from Hell, which haunts this farm house and slowly kills each member of Triton, one by one. Secondly, and probably worst of all: they must tolerate Stig, their drummer, who is a massive hunk of bullshit shaped into a human.

behold stig the worst thing in the world7

This is Stig, the biggest piece of shit in the whole fucking world.

Stig sucks like crazy. The actor playing Stig also sucks. He’s walking, talking proof that the universe is a fundamentally miserable and stupid place without purpose or justice, and part of what makes him suck the way he does is his stupid accent; this character has the lousiest, phoniest sounding Australian accent of all time, it’s cringe inducing. It makes Tarantino’s accent in Django Unchained sound like some serious pro-level shit. It’s as if the closest thing to dialogue coaching this guy got was to be shown a photograph of a Koala bear and to be told that Australians “Sorta sounded like people from England, only slower. Okay, action!” Later on in the film Stig is murdered (thank you) and replaced by a demon replicant with an American accent, but nobody in the band seems to mind the change given that this new Stig is a better drummer and is also less obnoxious.

If it is wrong to kick a man when it’s down, then it is, frankly, unethical to apply any form of criticism to Rock N’ Roll Nightmare whatsoever, but I am going to go ahead and confirm what you probably already suspect; this is a low budget, lame, badly made film with little in the way of talent, on, or off screen. That’s really about all that can be said, except for, that is, a detailed, photographic essay on the film’s climax, which is what I’m about to show you now. Ordinarily I would shy away from revealing the end of a film in one of my reviews, but this time I’m bending that rule to hell and back, because, A) the ending is the only part of this movie worth talking about in the first place, and B) absolutely no one cares. That being said, if you fear spoilers, turn away now, cuz they are comin’ atchya, fast and furious. Turned away yet, have you? Okay,  off we go, to the film’s hilarious climax:

So… What happens is that after everyone has been dead and demon replicated except for Thor, Satan shows up and confronts him in the barn while he’s working on one of his shitty little songs. Having caught his prey seemingly offguard, this hideous demon-king reveals his evil plans and big, fake looking puppet body, but is surprised to find that Thor is actually already aware of the ongoing demonic situation, and doesn’t really seem to care about it. “That’s kinda weird,” Satan thinks to himself. Well, apparently the reason for all that is simple; as Thor explains, he ain’t human, he’s actually an Archangel called Triton The Intercessor; and he’s here on Earth incognito for some sort of top secret Angel-stakeout, and so he knew what these demon guys were up to all along. He doesn’t really LOOK like what you imagine an Angel to look like, he mostly looks like a Post-Op sex change Michelle Pfeiffer, but whatever, he’s totally an angel, you guys, and that’s not all; apparently none of the people in this entire movie were even real. This gaggle of dorks were all mere illusions Angel-Thor crafted using his magical powers to give Satan a false sense of normalcy, thereby creating the perfect Devil trap. Yep! That’s the Shyamalan twist at the end of Rock N’ Roll Nightmare; it was all an elaborate ruse to bust some Demons and send them to Heaven Jail. How blown is your mind right now?

What comes after Thor’s big reveal is… Well…. It’s SUPPOSED to be a fight scene…  I think… I mean… I’m pretty sure…. You know what, here, I’m going to go ahead and just show you some images from the climax of the film; you look them over and then you tell ME what you see.


thor standthis sint gay

this is what it would look like if prince progressivley got whiter instead o fmichael jhacksonwhat is happeneing

horrified demons

satanam i seeing boobs

satan 2thor is an idiot

thor satan love 1

thor satan love 2

monsters run

99 percent sure this is satans money shot 23

wait what is that

on his chestDid anybody else just see gay porn?!?!?!?!


more movies

My Bloody Valentine (1981)!!!

My Bloody Valentine– 1981, George Mihalka


As of 2015 there have been a generous handful Valentine’s Day themed horror flicks made, and this one here is the best of the bunch, by far. I really expected that, by now, somebody would have made a horror film about a big fat guy in a diaper with tiny wings who shoots people with a bow and makes hilarious jokes, but if that movie exists, I can’t seem to find it. The closest we’ve come so far is the 2001 horror film Valentine, and dammit, that is a far cry from the glorious killer Cupid flick that I have imagined. Fortunately, My Bloody Valentine is a total classic, even if it doesn’t quench my thirst for absurdity, and it remains one of the best Holiday Themed slashers out there, even after thirty years. If you’re at all a slasher fan, you should track it down pronto, Tonto.

THE PLOT ~ A rural Canadian mining town finds it’s annual Valentine’s Day celebration disrupted by a string of gruesome murders, reminiscent of an infamous killing spree committed twenty years ago by a psychologically unhinged miner called Harry Warden. Believing Harry to be back in action, but not wanting to stir the townsfolk into a panic, local law enforcement does what it can to keep the news of the killings suppressed, while canceling all Valentine’s Day celebrations in accordance with the killer’s demands. The local youth aren’t into that shit, though. They want to party, and are fully willing to fight for their right to do so, regardless of the fact that License To Ill wouldn’t be released for five more years. Since they have literally no idea that people are being murdered in awesome ways all over town, these care-free future pickaxe victims conclude that the best course of action is to ignore the ban on Valentine’s Day celebrations, and to have a secret party anyway, no grown-ups allowed. But where would be best place for a secret Valentin’e Day party? Well, clearly, deep within the very mine where Harry Warden once cannibalized his peers, of course! Yes, he ate people toward the end of his mining career. So, that’s what they do- and guess how well that works out for them? Not real good.

There’s also a love triangle thing in here- which is actually the focal point of the plot, but that’s not very much fun to write about, and probably even worse for readers, so I’m mostly just going to hit you with the murder stuff. I really do think it’s best this way.

So, My Bloody Valentine is very much what you would expect it to be if you’re familiar with American/Canadian slashers of the early eighties, but if that’s the case, then you should also have seen this movie by now, because it’s a damn essential. It’s a close relative to Black Christmas, The Prowler, and the original Friday the 13th, and also owes a lot of influence to earlier Italian giallo films like Mario Bava’s Bay of Blood. Like those films, this is essentially a murder mystery, but with a much greater emphasis on sensationalized violence, and a focus on the role of the hapless victim, instead of seeing the story through the eyes of some bozo trying to solve the crime, as would be the case with most traditional murder mysteries. It’s distinct from the slashers that would follow it later in the 1980’s by being markedly less poppy, and by giving us characters who are much more realized and complex. We weren’t quite at the point where the audience just wanted to watch our killer tromp around and slice folks in half yet, so it was still important for the film to establish a somewhat believable world. My Bloody Valentine does that.

As a slasher, My Bloody Valentine has the title of “best Valentine’s Day horror film” on lock petty much for eternity. It’s a solid movie, and a damn fine horror film to boot. Our killer is both scary, and acceptably iconic, and the many red herrings doled out as the plot unravels keep the picture feeling interesting and surprising. This may even be the best horror film ever set in a mine, except for maybe Rodan, so suck it, The Stragneness.

Another fun fact that earns My Bloody Valentine mucho street cred amongst horror fanatics, It’s fairly violent. The picture is widely believed to have had nearly ten minutes of gore and violent content edited out of the picture before it was released, to appease the puritanical demands of the MPAA, and to date there is still no real uncut version of the film available. Subsequent versions have included additional unseen footage, but rumor has it there is still more sitting in a canister somewhere that we have yet to enjoy, so hopefully someone get’s that shit cut back together in the future. As it is, the theatrical cut leaves something to be desired if you’re coming into My Bloody Valentine after a gore-fest on par with Evil Dead, any of the Euro slashers, or even the aforementioned The Prowler, but it remains much stronger than, say, Halloween. I think My Bloody Valentine can hold it’s own against comparable slashers of the era in this respect, and it’s certainly good enough to warrant a viewing either way.

Before we wrap up, I want to briefly address my favorite part of the film; the character of Hollis. Hollis is a supporting character- but dammit if he isn’t a bad ass. He kinda looks like what you would get if Garfield the cat was a real human being- and also a little like the product of a cloning experiment involving John Candy and Teddy Roosevelt. As far as I’m concerned, this guy is the film’s main draw. End of paragraph.


The Last Dragon!!!

The Last Dragon – 1985, Michael Schultz


The Last Dragon is a slice of 1980’s zeitgeist so pure, potent, and unspoiled by new millennium angst that your immune system may not actually be prepared for it. It’s too bright eyed, too uninhibited, and most of you will likely find your health adversely effected as a result of viewing this motion picture. Full disclosure; I was born in the 80’s, and yet even I, an 80’s native, was not exempt from these maladies; at 45 minutes into the picture I began to develop nausea, headaches, vomiting, and an innovative, fresh, new breakdancing routine which is certain to win me fly honeys and mad street cred when I deploy it in the Bay Area next spring. This is your final warning, turn back, or suffer the consequences the 1980’s hath wrought.

THE PLOT~ Leroy Green (Also known as “Bruce Leroy”- awesome) is a naïve, virtuous inner-city youth with a weasely, peach fuzz mustache and a mastery of Kung Fu that is ALMOST unrivaled throughout Harlem. Completely devoted to the martial arts as a way of life, Leroy is on a quest to become a Master and reach the highest level of Kung Fu Bad Assary; obtaining a mystical power called “The glow.” They never really explain “the glow,” but it’s kind of like The Force, I think. And it’s also really awesome, and Leroy needs it.

However, he is not without competition for Martial Arts supremacy, as a formidable rival soon appears in the form of Sho’Nuff, the Shogun of Harlem.

sho nuff

Sho’Nuff is a lanky, aggressive psychopath who leads your typical 1980’s Kung Fu street gang. They all wear costumes and have names like “Crunch” and “Cyclone,” so, you know, pretty standard stuff. Sho’Nuff is his own biggest fan, and he has a debilitating “Mirror mirror on the wall” type of narcissism that won’t allow him to rest until everybody knows he’s number one.  Nuff makes it his mission to bully Leroy into a showdown that would determine just who is the top Kung Fu Fist in town, but Leroy won’t bite. He knows that fighting for the sake of ego isn’t gonna get anybody The Glow, so he has no interest in this proposed showdown. His refusal only serves to piss Sho off, and soon things escalate until Leroy has no choice in the matter. But first…!


…We have Eddie Arkadian, a manipulative gangster with aspirations of puppet-mastering Angela, a Cindi Lauper-esque popstar, into the limelight, so that he can vicariously soak up her glory, and enjoy the spoils of radio wave domination. His home made pop starlet isn’t really getting it done, however, so like any gangster worth his salt, Eddie decides to break some rules to make this shit happen. His plan? To Force local TV personality and youth culture Goddess Laura Charles (Played by Vanity!) to showcase his Client on her music variety show. However, when Laura refuses, Arkadian’s ire is provoked, gangster style, and he decides to play rough.

Through equal parts coincidence and shady machinations, all of our characters become increasingly entangled with one another until the movie hits critical mass in the third act, at which point fools get a full fledged 1980’s Kung Fu beat down dropped on their heads. Every American home should be stocked with a copy of this film at all times.

The Last Dragon is a Kung Fu movie, but it’s total entry level Kung Fu, a step down even from The Karate Kid. It definitely has it’s fight scenes, but the martial arts are probably the least important element in the equation if we really dig in and look at what makes this thing tick. Much more prominent here is the music; the soundtrack to The Last Dragon is a monster, there was clearly a lot of importance placed on keeping this thing grooving, start to finish, and they pulled it off. The jams are all traditional, stupid 80’s pop, and for many of us, that hits the “guilty Pleasure” region of our brains with Robin Hood like precision. Through the music of the era, the mindless optimism of the 80’s is at it’s most infectious, so get ready to smile against your will, you grumpy bastards. It’s also definitely a comedy, and The Last Dragon does not take itself very seriously.

It is, however, sometimes difficult to pinpoint where this movie crosses over from comedy into legitimate insanity. Some aspects of the film do feel at least marginally insane for real… My favorite scene falls into that grey area, it goes like this;

Following up on a tip from his previous Sensai, Leroy travels to a Fortune Cookie factory somewhere in the city to seek the tutelage of another Kung Fu Master, who he believes resides nearby. We arrive at the factory before Leroy does, and what we see is a screaming abomination steeped in ignorance and shame. Three Asian factory employees have engaged in the 1980’s tradition of dancing like mental patients on a side walk in full view of mankind and God alike, and in this instance; the song they are dancing to is one of the most unlistenably humiliating 80’s pop jams on the entire soundtrack, a song called Suki Yaki Hot Saki Sue, which, I learned from the credits, is performed by someone called Raw Dog…. Yikes, you guys.


These three ultra nerds are just pedal-to-the-medal grooving with such belligerent intensity, I would call this “dancing with extreme prejudice.” The most glorious thing about it is that they appear to be totally convinced that what they are doing is so, so very bad ass, when in truth, nothing could possibly be lamer. The experience is intense, like french kissing a hydrogen bomb an instant before detonation, and it only get’s worse once our guy arrives. Leroy, himself about the biggest square on the American East Coast, pleads for an audience with the Master, and in response he is heckled and belittled ruthlessly by the three people least qualified to make fun of anybody, ever. Their insults surpass “suck” in how poorly conceived and executed they are, and at one point, one of these guys appears to mock Leroy for being Asian. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this yet, but Leroy is black, so this exchange is more than a little confusing, and if anyone other than Leroy had been subjected to such bush-league ridicule, they would have gone off on these bozos with brutal, beast like ferocity. They would be right to do so. If I could give you one illustration to help explain what it feels like to watch this scene, it would be this; this conflict is like the Tour DeFrance, only in this case, every participant has had the part of their brain that tells them how to ride a bike completely removed, and in it’s place, they were given an extra helping of whatever part of your brain tells you “You’re doing a great job, keep it up!”. It’s a massive tangle of humiliating failure that can’t stop fist pumping with hysterical pride over how good of a job it’s doing. I think this scene changed my life.

With that having been said, even these geeks are somehow likable, and actually, if we look at the rather large cast of characters in The Last Dragon, there’s not a turd in the bunch. All of our actors do a great job playing their parts, as well, especially  Faith Prince, who plays Angela, the would-be-pop star. While Angela probably isn’t going to be anyone’s favorite character in the movie, Prince really bats for the fences and plays this vulnerable, multi-dimensional role fantastically. You don’t usually see this much talent in a flick of this caliber, and in fact, if you keep your eyes peeled you’ll spot celebrated actors William H. Macy and Chazz Palminteri hiding in there as well. They must not have been famous yet.

Aside from the excellent cast, entertaining premise, and catchy, shame-drenched, 80’s soundtrack, the rest of the production also fares pretty well when scrutinized. I find myself getting carried away when I talk about how great The Last Dragon really is, but I don’t feel compelled to hold back, if I’m being honest. It’s just such a fun movie. There are a lot of great sequences throughout the film, like when Leroy’s little brother is kidnapped up by Arkadian’s thugs, and “dances” out of the ropes they tie him up with, or when Laura shows Leroy a music video about The Glow featuring Bruce Lee, even though she literally only just learned that The Glow even existed seconds earlier on the car ride to her studio. The final confrontation between Sho’Nuff and Leroy is also freaking rad, and over all, The Last Dragon is just a really good time.


This is the sort that of movie that I, and so many of my peers, grew up with. If The Goonies was your jam when you were coming up, and if you were all about Short Circuit as a kid, then this movie could absolutely have held a spot in your regular VHS rotation. I’m legitimately saddened that I was already an adult the first time I saw it, and I vow to break this cycle of negligent parenting should I ever have children and/or decide to clone myself. Who knows how differently I could have turned out if I had seen this film before I got old and ruined my life! I think you should all watch this, if you can manage to suspend your cynicism for about ninety minutes, you could absolutely do worse.