“Erotic fantasy meets Martial Arts action!” roars the tagline. Exploitation filmmaking became a dying art in Nineties Hollywood, but its flame burned brightly in Hong Kong and Holy Virgin vs. the Evil Dead is a fine example. This Category III sexploitation-horror movie lays its goods on the table with a Maurice Binder-style credit sequence featuring a scary kung fu demon, sexy topless dancing girls, and documentary footage from a Chinese ghost festival, all set to a bouncy, upbeat Cantopop tune. What follows adopts the patented Hong Kong, ten movies rolled into one method of movie making.
During a mid-autumn festival, college lecturer Sheung (Donnie Yen) brings his female students to the beach for a picnic. Shortly afterwards they’re engulfed in a crimson haze and the drooling, glowing eyed Moon Monster (Ken Lo - Jackie Chan’s bodyguard and occasional co-star) swoops out of the darkness. He swats Sheung with supernatural kung fu, strips the girls, shags ’em silly and drinks their blood. The HKPD nab Sheung for the murders. Hardboiled lady-cop, Detective Hu (Sibelle Hu - doing the “major star cameo in an exploitation flick” bit) is convinced he’s their man. “I’ll beat you until you confess!” she growls, scarily. Sheung makes bail, but Hu and Sgt. Chen (Ben Lam) tail his every move.
To add insult to injury Chen has married Sheung’s ex-girlfriend, the gorgeous Shamen (Chui Hei-Man), who provides gratuitous sex and full-frontal nudity every few minutes. She even goes skinny-dipping over the opening credits! Moon Monster cops an eyeful and realises Shamen is a sacred being “born under a special sign.” That she’s a voluptuous hottie has nothing to do with it, right? As the kill-crazy sex maniac rampages across Hong Kong, Sheung is eager to clear his name. He consults cute occult librarian, Chor Yi Yan (Kathy Chow Mei), who brings her findings to Sgt. Chen. It seems these ritual sex murders are to do with summoning an evil, one-breasted hermaphrodite goddess with a porn star moustache. Got that? When Moon Monster suddenly attacks Shamen, Chor heroically intercedes and zaps him with an electric cable. Alas, he springs back to life on an autopsy table, rips a mortician’s guts out and frames the luckless Sheung for Chor’s murder.
Meanwhile in Cambodia (bet you didn’t see that coming), tribal warriors compete to win the hand of lovely Princess White (Pauline Yeung - best known as Jackie Chan’s girlfriend in Dragons Forever (1987)), by besting her in a gravity-defying martial arts duel. They stand little chance, since the titular holy virgin can fly, knows supernatural kung fu and wields a mean laser sword, but these pre-marital shenanigans are put on hold. A violent thunderstorm heralds the return of Moon Monster, whom it is Princess White’s sacred duty to destroy. Their laser-flashing, wire-fu battle cripples the monster, but Princess White is also injured. She is saved by Sheung, who has followed Moon Monster’s trail to Cambodia along with Chen, Shamen and comedy sidekick, Fat (Robert Mak). Everyone is swiftly in local warlord Ma Tian’s (Choy Fat - badass in his white suit and matching cowboy hat) scheme to unleash ancient evil with a voodoo supernatural hump-a-thon…
Actor-turned-director Choy Fat worked as a stuntman on Hammer’s Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974), a similar mix of crazy kung fu, naked girls, groovy ghouls and gore. He must have picked up a few ideas. Evidently, urban Chinese look upon places like Thailand and Cambodia the same way we see Transylvania, so the film is full of compelling occult weirdness and tribal lore. Things starts out like A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) with horny teens murdered in a flurry of dry ice, comic book colours and hyperactive camerawork, before the movie careens through a half-dozen genres like a monkey with a short attention span. Police procedural, wu xia fantasy, soft-core sexploitation, and jungle warfare straight out of Rambo, which gives Donnie Yen a chance to show off his wushu moves. What kind of college professor knows kick-ass kung fu and how to wield an M-16? The best, darn college professor in the world, dang it!
Given that it’s a sleazy, sexploitation-horror movie, this shows a surprisingly feminist bent. Aside from the engagingly stoic, sacred swordswoman, we have Shamen, who may go full-frontal but thankfully proves no screaming bimbo. She figures out clues, knows kung fu and beats five men single-handed. Even poor Chor gets her moment in the sun. Then there is Sibelle Hu’s surreal cameo. Weirdly, even though she spends her screen time using dubious methods to persecute an innocent man, the film portrays her as the hero! When the police chief and the district attorney force her to let Sheung go, she cites corruption and quits the force in disgust. “I’m going off to become a movie star!” declares Hu, suggesting this is also some kind of biopic?!
It climaxes with a great set-piece and the arrival of the evil hermaphrodite sitting atop his/her snake throne, surrounded by a hundred naked girls. Including Shamen, of course, whose participation in involves a mystical blowjob. It’s kept off screen, but surprisingly common in Hong Kong horror - see also Ellen Chan administering oral relief to an invisible wizard in Eternal Evil of Asia (1994). Plenty of pus, gore and exploding heads, plus machine gun and magic-sword wielding action. The ending makes no sense, but we have a heck of a fun time getting there.