Director – Ricky Lau – 1986 – Hong Kong – Cert. 12 – 89m
After a professor unearths a family of undead corpses, the child befriends a little girl and the parents go looking for it – out on Blu-ray in the UK on Monday, May 22nd as part of Eureka! Video’s Hopping Mad: The Mr. Vampire Sequels
The second ‘official’ Mr. Vampire film (i.e. to be made by Sammo Hung / Leonard Ho’s Bo Ho Films company).
A professor (Fat Chung) leads his two hapless assistants Chicken (Billy Lau) and Sashimi (Lau Chau-sang) on an archaeological dig, sending them into a cave where they find a family of corpses (father, mother, small boy played by Cheung Wing-cheung, Pauline Wong and Hoh Kin-wai respectively) immobilised by talismans on their foreheads, and take them back to the professor’s workshop. As the professor and Sashimi are driving the child corpse, the talisman comes off, and it comes to life, later escaping to a house where it is found and befriended by a little girl Chia-Chia (Hon Kin-yu), who keeps it hidden in her room from her widowed father Mr. Hu (Woo Fung). She introduces it to her brother (Choi Man-kam) and later to four of their friends.
Left alone at the professor’s workshop, meanwhile, Chicken fights the two adult corpses when one of the talismans comes off and gets torn in two, after which it won’t work properly and he must switch the undamaged talisman from one corpse’s head to that of the other even as he tries to keep the pair in check. He gets bitten and visits Lam Ching-ying (here playing a character with his own name) for a cure.
Lam’s daughter’s boyfriend and journalist / photographer wannabe Yen (Yuen Biao) heads to the workshop to photograph himself with the two corpses, removing the talismans to get a better shot, then finding himself fighting them. He grabs a bottle of Retardant and everything slows down.
Lam briefly dons his Taoist priest costume to battle the corpses (he keeps battling them, even after the film inexplicably discards his priest costume and puts him back in everyday clothing), joined by daughter Gigi (Moon Lee), who is also Yen’s girlfriend.
The police take the corpses away to the morgue, and after various attempts by the protagonists to take them back, the corpses head for the Hu family home where their son is holed up, pursued by the professor, the Taoist priest and the police.
The above might not sound like much, but having locked into place all the Jiangshi (hopping corpse) tropes in Mr. Vampire, screenwriter Barry Wong and director Ricky Lau proceed to milk their new-formed genre to hilarious and compelling effect. That said, the film is brave enough to try out some new elements rather than merely slavishly imitating its predecessor. Unlike the first film, this one is set in then-present day Hong Kong. And it features a nuclear family of hopping corpses rather than several individual male ones.
The little boy vampire character who could so easily have become irritatingly cute in fact plays out, interacting with the little girl, as winsome, charming and funny. In addition, there are references to the then current problem of immigrants, with the boy vampire linked to these in the mind of the little girl. If the film has any stance on how one should deal with the issue of immigration, it’s “be kind”.
The narrative seems to know when enough is enough and switches back to the two adult jiangshi. The knockabout comedy gets pretty silly, with a snake going up an archeological assistant’s trouser leg in the opening sequence and Yen explaining to straight-laced, prospective father-in-law Lam that he’s already sleeping with the latter’s daughter. “He takes advantage of me every day,” says Gigi coquettishly when Lam questions her.
There’s just enough of this and similar material to counterbalance the hopping corpse mayhem. The mix is so well judged that at no point does the audience feel short-changed. A high level of invention takes full advantage of small interior sets – a large floor area space plus a pillar and a small raised area with steps up to it in the professor’s workshop, several connected rooms in the smaller Hu home. Despite the confined space, the action and wire work stunts – choreographed by Sammo Hung – are top-notch.
There are so many comedies produced that aren’t funny that any comedy that succeeds as such is to be cherished, and this second Mr. Vampire entry, in addition to providing the spooky thrills, chills and action you would expect, is very, very funny. A great sequel to a true original.
Mr. Vampire II is out on Blu-ray in the UK on Monday, May 22nd as part of Eureka! Video’s Hopping Mad: The Mr. Vampire Sequels. The release also features Mr. Vampire III, Mr. Vampire IV and Vampire Vs. Vampire.
Hopping Mad: The Mr. Vampire Sequels trailer: