Society (1989)

I came across a rather interesting horror flick about a year ago, one in which the premise was that the wealthy overclass literally feasted on the people below them, and I was fascinated by that idea. What other movie took the idea of class conflict and transmogrified it into a surreal, SFX-laden horror film? Alas, though the film’s ideas were solid, it’s not as spellbinding as I had hoped it would be, but it certainly wasn’t boring.

The film’s plot revolves around Bill Whitney, a high school student who’s practically got it made. He has a wealthy family in Beverly Hills, California, a girlfriend in the cheerleading squad, a Jeep Wrangler, and is likely to become class president. And yet, despite this enormous position of privilege, he is unhappy and feels out of place. His sister and parents mingle with upper class socialites, and even his girlfriend is more interested in going to parties than in his pressing concerns.

His worst fears are confirmed when his sister’s ex-boyfriend David Blanchard gives him a tape which seems to reveal his family participating in an incestuous orgy, but when tries to show the tape to his therapist, it appears to have been altered, and Blanchard turns up dead. Each second he keeps digging puts his life at risk, until eventually all is revealed to him at a formal party, and it’s not a pretty sight.

The story itself is a twisted jab at the outward soullessness of the upper class, old money types that still haunt the real world, though it’s worth noting that the film doesn’t necessarily take itself seriously, or at least not constantly. In fact, more times than not it’s a comedy of sorts. The real horror builds up until the end of the film, where the rich socialites turn out to be creatures that melt into alien creatures and suck the nutrients out of them. I might have liked for the film to go in a darker direction, but on the other hand, it’s a decent enough deconstruction of the then-popular 80’s teen flicks that were about as prevalent as Aqua Net. If you want to see a by-the-numbers teen flick being twisted, dismembered and then hung out to dry, this is probably the film for you.

My main problem is with the pacing. For a horror film, there’s an awful lot of time in which barely anything happens, though I think this is probably supposed to add to the sense of paranoia that the film relies on in. It’s a good idea, though the acting is pretty bad, and cheesy to the point of it being comical. This isn’t a rare phenomenon in horror films, particularly ones that rely on visceral SFX-driven thrills, but here I can’t help but think that it ran the risk of somehow undermining the whole message of the film by rendering the characters as stock caricatures.

The film certainly has the spirit of the opulent 80’s, complete with the synth score, but for me, the real highlight of the film is the special effects provided by Screaming Mad George, which greatly added to the bizarre nature of the film. I also like how the writers took advantage of the seemingly elastic effects to deliver a satisfying conclusion.

On the whole, it’s not as great as it perhaps could have been, but it’s not without its merits. It may have been a B-movie, but it had a kind of satirical commentary hidden beneath the layers of cheese. It’s not really for everyone, and if you’re the kind of viewer who isn’t into surrealistic gore or sadistic horror (though there isn’t much of it here), you probably won’t like it. But for the hardier cult film viewer, Society is a film for you.

  • Score: 66%
  • Grade: C

Last Action Hero (1993)

lastactionheroI’m not surprised that Last Action Hero was maligned by critics back in its day, and is still generally ignored by the public at large today. It was a ludicrously ridiculous action flick in a time when action films were just starting to go out of vogue. Of course, I’m certain this was intended as a satire of Hollywood action films (particularly the ones set in L.A.), and in that spirit it’s certainly more well-produced than a similar film named Loaded Weapon 1 (a cheesy National Lampoon parody of Lethal Weapon). It wasn’t a bad film, but perhaps it was a bit too silly for your average moviegoer.

A big problem is the ridiculousness that is the film’s main premise. A movie-obsessed young boy is given a magic ticket, and he’s somehow transported into the latest entry in the “Jack Slater” series, where he gets to see the world of a badass action hero, and Jack realises that he is just a film character. For me, the film could have been more satirical if the whole film played out like an action film that didn’t always take itself seriously, as opposed to the whole “magic ticket” approach. As it stands however, it’s essentially a matinee film with a goofy plot and wasted potential.

To be fair there’s plenty of humorous moments where the film essentially deconstructs its own genre, but that’s hampered by an often hackneyed script that, sadly, tends to rub off on the characters. Arnold Schwarzenegger still managed to play the lead role effectively, but mainly in his capacity as an action film star. The other characters seem to wilt in the background for the most part, if that is they aren’t hamming their way out of it. One silver lining I can count on is the skilful performance of Charles Dance in the role of the lead villain. A lot of times he unapologetically steals the show, even though he’s not immune to the iniquities of the film’s numerous script problems.

The way I see it, the problem with a setting that gives the characters licence to act like they’re in a Hollywood movie is that they always take it too far. To take this film for what it is requires not so much a suspension of disbelief, but a complete silence of disbelief, but that’s not to say it’s a bad film. There are many enjoyable fantasy films that constantly skirt the issue of suspension of disbelief, often to the point that they risk butchering it, but we still enjoy them. Besides, I kind of like the film’s obvious ridiculousness, which sometimes has a weird comic charm, but I think that comes from the fact that I’m familiar with it (having seen it roughly four times to date).

It also helps that the film had some good production values on its side, but I think they used way too much special effects, which lead to the film having a bloated budget so big that the seemingly plentiful box office returns could be considered a disappoint (a film needs to make more than double its budget to turn a profit, and Last Action Hero costed $85 million to produce).

In terms of ridiculous matinee fair, Last Action Hero isn’t actually as bad as people say it is. I’d say it’s mediocre, but with more than a few good moments. The problem, however, is that the producers wasted a lot of the potential that might have been capitalised on to great effect, and the end result can’t be anything better than a mildly humorous parody film with a choppy script.

  • Score: 60%
  • Grade: C

Weird Science (1985)

movie_poster_for_weird_science_1985Weird Science was very much a film that was emblematic of the bizarre excesses of Hollywood in the 1980’s. It’s ridiculous, it’s loaded with kitsch, and the story seems to be over the place. Sometimes that can make a film so goofy that it’s downright irresistible, but that’s not the case here in Weird Science, which simply hasn’t aged that well compared to other films from the mid-80’s.

The plot is essentially a typical teen comedy, revolving around two awkward teenagers named Gary and Wyatt, who have no luck with women, but they’re swooning over the girlfriends of two boorish Neanderthals who consistently humiliate them. Disappointed with their lot in life, they use Wyatt’s computer to create their ideal woman, who is brought to life after a lightning strike. The woman, who comes to be known as Lisa, begins to teach the boys self-confidence, but not without a slew of zany shenanigans ensuing along the way.

It’s not too much like John Hughes’ other films (which I tend to be sharply critical of), but like the rest, the film revels in Hughes’ consistent romanticising of the dreaded teen phase. As if teen films weren’t already unbelievable, this film pretty much demands suspension of disbelief, as much of the plot raises several questions that I’m sure none of the writers will have any answer for aside from “it’s just a stupid movie”. Nothing about it makes sense, but I’m quite sure that it’s not supposed to. At least this film had the good fortune of being made in a time where you could get away with it.

The acting certainly doesn’t help the cause by much. The actors aren’t particularly bad, but they aren’t exactly high-calibre performers either. They’re essentially actors stuck in a brainless genre that limits their potential. I should give some kudos to the film for using actual teenage actors in the lead roles, unlike the majority of teen films which use actors in their early 20’s, or older for all I know. The characters themselves aren’t particularly likable, and Lisa is perhaps the least convincing character by her very nature as an artificial woman.

If the film has any redeeming virtues, it’s that it at least had good production, as John Hughes films generally did for their time. The film also made wildly liberal use of special effects, and they become more common towards the end of the film as the more nonsensical scenes play out. Of course, the film isn’t bereft of humour, which is fortunate for a film that’s supposed to be billed as a comedy film. It’s not as funny as it perhaps ought to have been, but there are parts of the film that are rib-ticklingly funny, but those are few and far between.

In conclusion, this is a film that very much belongs in its time. I remember hearing that there was a remake in the works, but nobody would really want it. It just wouldn’t work in my time, not just because it’s too cheesy, but also because Hollywood doesn’t know how to write comedies anymore. I dare say that a modern Weird Science would turn out to be even more juvenile than the film we got, and more reprehensibly irritating as a result. This film, thankfully isn’t that bad, but it’s age shows in too many ways.

  • Score: 58%
  • Grade: D

Caddyshack (1980)

caddyshack_posterOften touted as one of the finest sports comedies ever made, Caddyshack comes across as more a typically zany 1980’s comedy film, which isn’t too much of a bad thing. In fact, it’s Harold Ramis’ brand of abstract silliness, along with intuitive input from the lead performers and good use comedic timing, that made Caddyshack a very memorable, and well-aged comedy film from back when people actually knew how to write actual comedy.

In this film, a young man named Danny Noonan becomes a caddy in order to make money for college, working for a golfer named Ty Webbs, all while a bunch of crazy characters is generally wreaking havoc and making life hell for the club owner, Judge Elihu Smails. Among the wealthy and eccentric members of the Bushwood golf club is Al Czervik, a loud, crude tycoon who harasses Smails until he decides he’s no longer welcome, and eventually challenges him and Ty to a golf match. Meanwhile, an unkempt greenskeeper is charged with getting rid of a gopher, but fails and ends up blowing the course to pieces.

A lot happens in Caddyshack, and clearly none of it should be happening in a real life golf course. The story seems a tad disorganised, and to be fair, this isn’t necessarily a film that’s focused on story and writing. It’s basically a vehicle for the comedic talents of the main cast, and in that regard, it works, offering laughs despite a plot that sometimes meanders, replete with scenes that were often built around the gags.

Only in the 80’s does this approach seem to work, though because of the way the film was written, everything revolves around Rodney Dangerfield’s character (Chevy Chase’s character doesn’t really appear too often, save for the beginning and close to the end), and he is outrageous enough that he not just steals but pillages the show, dominating with the kind of comedic personality that the. That’s not to say none of the other characters perform, like Chevy Chase, who perhaps plays a noticeable more subtle character, at least compared to Dangerfield.

For whatever reason, films like Caddyshack remind me of a more well-produced sitcom from around that time, probably because they tend to present themselves with a similar style. Of course, the film has good production values behind it, but the main point of the film is the comedy, which is composed more of gags than of jokes, and this gag-based approach is very much hilarious, and sort of defines Caddyshack. It’s pretty juvenile sometimes (and some of the film’s critics seemed to pick this as the stick with which to beat it), but it’s fun.

It’s no classic, but I would be blind not to notice that the film had aged quite well after nearly four decades. With a charming cast, well-timed gags, and a good director (and writers) behind it, Caddyshack, despite being a film of its time, performed well enough that it had attained lasting appeal and influence long afterward.

  • Score: 80%
  • Grade: B

Scrooged (1988)

scrooged_film_posterFor my last Christmas film for this year, I’ve picked out a film that I can say is a consistently good holiday film. I am fully aware that this is essentially a modernized spin on A Christmas Carol (which, to be fair, would have been quite rare back then compared to now), which is extremely familiar, but around Christmas time that’s not exactly a huge concern.

The film sees former Ghostbuster Bill Murray playing the role of Frank Cross, the meanest, crudest, most arrogant television executive out there. He’ll do just about anything to boost ratings for his network, including mounting a bizarre range of Christmas programmes, and advertising a live performance of A Christmas Carol using a shock ad campaign. He also forces his employees to work on the live production, meaning that he has to work right through Christmas Eve.

At that point, he’s visited by the three ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, all of them modernised and given a surreal twist, but the rest of the plot is pretty familiar. It’s essentially A Christmas Carol set in the high-flying corporate culture of the late 1980’s, and it works mainly because the film had good writers behind it. Personally, I think it’s one of the best versions of A Christmas Carol out there, primarily because it delivers the tale in a more contemporary style, while still trying to make it into an original film.

It also helps that Bill Murray is such a hilarious character in this film. He’s great in various other films, including Ghostbusters and Stripes, and he’s great here too. He always seems to deliver his lines with just the right timing and deadpan wit. It seems as though the script is sort of meant for him. The side characters work well alongside him, with an effective chemistry that results in laugh after laugh.

The film certainly presents itself in a contemporary style, almost similar in tone to Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice, and later Batman, and I say this primarily because the film was scored by Danny Elfman (who would go on to compose for Tim Burton’s most popular films). It definitely has the whole Christmas vibe going for it, as I would expect. I’ll admit that the film does sound a little bit dated, but it has a lot of charm left over, certainly more than today’s holiday flicks, and it holds up a lot better than many critics would give it credit for. The film also uses its fair share of special effects, and it uses them well in the scenes involving the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, which took a rather surreal turn to say the least.

All in all, I’d say this is certainly one of my favourite Christmas films. I’m definitely willing to watch it again year after year (and it always shows up rather conveniently on TV listings at around this time), and that’s because it’s consistently entertaining. Though it’s not necessarily a classic (it’s definitely close to it though), few Christmas films have that much staying power.

  • Score: 82%
  • Grade: B

Jingle All the Way (1996)

jingle_all_the_way_posterOh joy, the time has come for schlocky family comedies to invade the TV screens for the holidays. This one is very much typical for its time, with its formulaic, sitcom style plot, though it’s the kind one can accept at around Christmas time, and nowhere else. It also has the misfortune of being one of those mid-career Schwarzenegger films where he tries to do something other than what he’s best at, with mixed results.

The plot is simple enough. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Howard Langston, a workaholic dad who can’t seem to find any time for his wife and son, who are spending more time with their neighbour Ted Maltin, who consistently denigrates Howard while passing himself off as the “good neighbour”.

In order to make up for well-meaning yet inept parenting, he vows to get his son the hot-selling “Turbo Man” action figure, which is all but sold out. He also winds up in a race with a stressed out postman named Myron Larabee, who wants to get his son the same action figure, but there’s only one left, and they have to fight each other over it.

Of course, the immediate criticism levelled at the film was that the film was made to sell an actual “Turbo Man” toy. Truth be known, the producers were actually planning to do that, but the film was shot so quickly that there wasn’t enough time left for the merchandising, and whatever merchandise was made was limited to a replica of the Turbo Man in the film, and in significantly lower quantities compared to the likes of Space Jam, which had the good fortune of being released in the same year, at around the same time, and outperforming it in the box office (despite being even more of a ridiculous commercialist farce of a film).

In terms of actual substance, the story is only slightly more advanced than a by-the-numbers sitcom episode, but at least we’re free not to have to expose our ears to a laugh track. That said, in terms of family fare, it’s not that bad. I’ve definitely seen worse holiday films (The Santa Clause 3 for instance), and this one at least tries to pass for decent family-oriented entertainment, but it definitely has its flaws, with the main flaw being its less than clever script.

The acting isn’t too bad, but I don’t see Schwarzenegger are a comedic actor. In fact, most of the time he’s funny because the idea of him as a comedic actor is absurd. Phil Hartman, meanwhile, fits perfectly in the film. I would say the same is true with Sinbad, but to a lesser extent. If I’m going to be completely honest, some of the jokes were a bit lazy, and a lot of the humour comes from zany, slightly over-the-top acting from the three main characters, with a bit of support from the minor characters, but it’s not bad.

As far as holiday films go, this isn’t the worst you could pick. There are several worse options you could consider, but sadly this one might be little on the underrated side. If you want to see Arnold Schwarzenegger at least try his luck in a purely comedic role alongside the late Phil Hartman, this might be the film for you. I’d also recommend this for any parents looking to huddle around the TV with their children for a family flick that isn’t completely sterile. In other words, it’s decent, but no more than that.

  • Score: 60%
  • Grade: C

Home Alone (1990)

Home_aloneWith Christmas just around the corner, it’s inevitable that this film always ends up on rotation, as if it’s some kind of annual TV tradition. This makes sense, since it’s pretty much a quintessential Christmas film, complete with all the dysfunctional family clichés. In a nutshell, it’s basically Die Hard for kids, but the different is that Die Hard was awesome, and it simply doesn’t work when taken through a family-friendly filter. It’s also one of those films that tend to be incredibly easy to oversell. That is to say that most people remember the slapstick, but that’s only half of the movie, and often, the slapstick comes across as more flat than the producers intended. Suffice it to say, this film requires quite a lot in the suspension of disbelief department.

The film insists that Kevin was left behind by accident, but since the first part of the film is basically a typical argument taking place in a stereotypically dysfunctional family, which ends with Kevin hating pretty much everyone, doesn’t it seem like they abandoned him on purpose? Never mind that, how do you sustain a whole franchise on that premise? Immediately, I get the sense that this is more of a kid’s movie, and that in its self is somewhat worrying due to the fact that most of the adults here are portrayed as completely unlikable. Another problem is that the dysfunctional family trope is so horribly repetitive even for the time the film was made, and it’s almost as though the actual plot of the film was lifted from the desktop of the laziest Hollywood hack.

To be fair, the film had a pretty good cast, and at the very least Kevin develops into a more likable character towards the end. Of course, when you look past the comedic element, it’s basically schmaltz, but at least its tasteful schmaltz with good acting behind it. As for the slapstick, it’s kind of predictable. But then again, I guess that’s because the film was more of a novelty than anything else, but the “filthy animal” gag doesn’t seem to have gotten old. Maybe that’s why they repeated it so many times.

The way the film presents itself is a bit heavy-handed, what with the overuse of orchestral music. I get why the Christmas songs are here, but John Williams’ orchestra just seems unwelcome here. We’re talking about a Christmas family film, not another Star Wars film. Then again, orchestral music always ruins this sort of film by making it sound bigger than it is. However, the film itself is by no means bad. In fact, it’s decent viewing for its intended audience, but it tends to rely very heavily on suspension of disbelief, and it’s a gamble which more often than not fails to pay off. Of course, it’s not a complete pain to watch, but to make a long story short, let’s just say that you’ll only really consider watching it when your house is already decorated with fairy lights.

  • Score: 63%
  • Grade: C

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

original_rocky_horror_picture_show_posterIn a way, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a good example of a cult film that garnered mainstream appeal. Largely dismissed when it was first released (because let’s face it, mainstream film critics were always morons), it quickly became a huge enough hit that people would dress up as the characters (ladies and gentlemen, the birth of cosplay as we know it), and now every year the film is shown close to Halloween, which I guess is why I’ve picked this film. I saw a more recent performance of the play this film was based on (specifically the 40th Anniversary broadcast on Sky Arts), and at that point I didn’t see the film yet, and then wanted to see it more than ever, and when I finally did see it, I liked it, even though I wasn’t entirely surprised by how unapologetically campy it is.

The film’s plot is essentially a silver screen re-enactment of the musical, narrated by a criminologist. The story sees a couple – Brad Majors and Janet Weiss – who find themselves lost in the woods one rainy evening, and stumble on a nearby manor, wherein they assume they can find a phone they can use to call for help. Discovering a cavalcade of strange people with bizarre costumes, they are greeted by Dr. Frank N. Furter, a crazy scientist who, by his own admission, is an alien transvestite from a faraway planet, and apparently he is creating a superhuman beef cake that he wants to have sex with, while simultaneously seducing both Brad and Janet, who find themselves caught in a series of bizarre, goofy horrors set to upbeat music.

The story is in equal parts a B-movie parody and a glam rock opera, and it moves at a rather frenetic, yet enjoyably upbeat pace. It’s mainly the musical numbers that move the plot forward (this literally being an on-screen translation of the original musical), and it’s a pretty effective way to bring attention to the plot, and advantage that Rocky Horror has over the plethora of cheesy sci-fi and horror movies the filmmakers lovingly satirise.

The acting is one area where your mileage may vary, mainly because the acting is very campy. If you hate musicals you might not like it, but it seems to me that the actors perform better when they’re singing rather than simply speaking. I’m probably not the only one who’ll say that Tim Curry is the best performer in the film. I prefer his character to all the others, mainly because of his outlandish and deliciously devious performance. I’m also of the opinion that Tim Curry was the best possible choice for the role of Dr. Frank N. Furter. I’ve seen the trailer for the TV reboot (which looks pretty bad), and I’m sure Laverne Cox isn’t a bad choice, but let’s face it, there’s no beating Tim Curry.

Stylistically, the film has all the ingredients of a film that serves as both a parody and a loving tribute to the Hammer Horror films of the 1950’s and 1960’s. In fact, a number of props and set pieces, including the Oakley Estate (which was used as the setting for The Frankenstein Place), a frequent filming location in older Hammer films. Many of the costumes instantly remind me of the often equally outlandish glam rock scene of the time, but some of the other elements, including dyed hair and ripped fishnets, remind me of the punk movement (where they found a home after the film was released). Of course, I can’t go without mentioning the actual songs, and the songs are actually quite good, though a select few are truly memorable (nobody who’s seen the film can actually forget “The Time Warp”, “Dammit Janet”, or “Sweet Transvestite”).

It’s probably not for everyone, but if you want a wild, unapologetically fun film, then The Rocky Horror Picture Show is certainly for you. It looks, feels and sounds very much like a film of its time, but amazingly enough, its bold, unabashed appeal still holds up today.

  • Score: 75%
  • Grade: B

Coming to America (1988)

zamundaBefore I start this review I feel obligated to state that, because I’m starting university tomorrow, I’m taking a break from writing film reviews for an as yet undetermined amount of time, so that I can figure out how to balance this with life in uni. For now, I may as well pick a film that I’m very familiar with by now. I know I previously chided the film’s director because of the dreadful Spies Like Us, but his work tends to be hit or miss, with this film definitely being one of the hits.

Most of us know what Coming to America is about – the story of a young African prince who has grown weary of living a life where he has everything handed to him, and despises the thought of marrying a bride who has been chosen for him. Going against his father’s wishes, he decides to look for love in a poor part of America, hoping to meet someone who will love him for more than his money and status.

Essentially its a kind of pop fairy tale, but it’s told very well, and in the kind of light-hearted fashion that works best for it. The main thing that helped was that the story was backed with a riotously laugh-filled script. It also helps that the writers knew how to convey the kind of scenario that they wanted. At the beginning of the film, there’s a lot of emphasis on how grandiose the kingdom is. You get the impression that it’s pretty much paradise, if you’re prepared to have things done for you. Akeem had pretty much everything done for him at his home, in contrast to when he goes to Queens, New York, where he has most of his and his servant’s belongings stolen when they arrive. He does basically everything himself, and develops into an admirably affable character. Of course, towards the end is where the film resembles a more typical romance film, complete with a token happy ending, but it all worked well.

Coming to America’s main strength is its humorous acting, with Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall taking the lead, and donning multiple roles in a practice that, after the film’s success, would come to be a staple of Murphy’s films. Murphy and Hall play all of their roles with exuberance and charismatic enthusiasm. It’s not just the main players that do well here. There’s a whole host of colourful characters who I felt had magnetic personalities – particularly from James Earl Jones and John Amos – perhaps due to the film’s style of humour (the film, after all, did have good writers behind it).

As far as presentation goes, it looked and sounded great, and in a way I think the two different settings perfectly reflect the kind of world the film’s main character transitions to and fro, though in a manner that I think is pretty obvious. As I may have mentioned earlier, the vibrant royal palace of Zamunda represents the kind of opulence and wealth that Akeem was brought up in and is tired of, while the snow-drenched borough of Queens represents the exact opposite of that, a cold indifference place where you have to work hard for everything. The music, though perhaps typical for the time, also helps to convey a warmly jovial atmosphere. Of course, the actual comedy is what keeps the film afloat, along with Murphy’s often booming voice.

Sadly, however, the film is the last great film in Eddie Murphy’s career, but you could say it’s his royal flush. Enduringly hilarious, charmingly magnetic, teeming with personality and replete with great scenes, it’s a good example of a warm comedy film done right, very much unlike the dull, unoriginal, and painfully unfunny comedies of today.

  • Score: 92%
  • Grade: A

Mr. Vampire (1985)

MrVampirePosterAs far as vampire-related films go, this film is definitely a rare species. Though not as compelling as others, this one is definitely more bizarre than many others, and is certainly a hilarious alternative. Apparently popular enough to spawn a line of sequels and spin-offs, and though its not the first of its kind, the film’s popularity effectively kickstarted a trend of Chinese comedy-horror films. Though it essentially plays out like a genre film, it takes its chosen genre in a creative and interesting way.

The film’s story is themed around the jiangshi – the hopping corpses in Chinese folklore that are sometimes described as vampires. In the film, a Taoist priest named Master Kau is given the task of removing the father of a wealthy businessman and rebury it. However, the exhumed body reawakens as a savage hopping corpse, threatening the safety of the other villagers, so it’s up to Master Kau and his two inept disciples to stop the bloodthirsty corpse.

When I first saw the hopping corpses I thought they were part of the comedy, until I read up about the folklore and this began to make sense. Of course, the way the hopping corpses are depicted is hilarious. The story is pretty much written much like a typical horror film, but in a very irreverent way. I saw a review where this film is compared to one of my more recent picks, A Chinese Ghost Story, where the reviewer say that Mr. Vampire is more demented by comparison, and that would certainly be accurate. The story is a bit muddled, but it’s mainly action-driven, with a blend of slapstick humour and martial arts, and its packaged neatly into a fast-paced film.

Right off the bat, the characters come across as goofy, but then, I think I ought to blame the badly translated subtitles, some of which were hilarious anyway. The acting is already, and the performances are suitably camp, which kind of works for this film for some reason. From what I can tell, the actors weren’t necessarily trying to be serious, and that’s the point. It’s not necessarily a serious horror film, in fact it’s irreverent tone is what makes this film so enjoyable in the first place.

The only thing I criticise would be the special effects, which look pretty cheap, or maybe it aged badly, or maybe its quality I’ve seen the film at (note to self, I should stop using low-quality videos online for too long). In a way, the special effects sort of add to the comedy, but if you’re a fan of the frenetic craziness of Hong Kong action films, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the film’s ably choreographed action scenes, which are very typical of this kind of film. All in all, I’m not as much of a fanatic about this film as others are, I did enjoy the film, if mainly because of its silly take on vampire horror, and the charmingly irreverent way in which this unique approach was executed.

  • Score: 69%
  • Grade: C