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  Hello Dracula 2 The Littlest Vampire Slayer
Year: 1988
Director: Wong Chi-Ching
Stars: Liu Chih-Yu, Gam Tiu, Boon Saam, Lam Gwong-Wing, Wong Chung-Yue, Hong Ching-Yuan, On On, Liu Chi-Han, Chan Tai-Sheng, Huang Guo-Shu, Chu Ming-Da
Genre: Horror, Comedy, Martial Arts, Weirdo, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Grandpa King (Gam Tiu), his ghost-busting little granddaughter Ten-Ten (Liu Chih-Yu) and four young kung fu kids, including sensitive fat boy Shih Kua Pih (Liu Chi-Han), transport the corpse of Ten-Ten's former master through a haunted forest. As they ride Grandpa regales them with the story of a father and son who died tragically but were reborn as 'Jiangshi' or hopping vampires. Wouldn't you know it, the gang happen across a hapless Taoist sorcerer grappling with his hitherto docile now out-of-control quartet of hopping vampires. Sure enough the cause of this chaos is cute little child vampire Little Konsi (Hong Ching-Yuan) whose cries summon his formidable vampire dad (Wong Chung-Yue). Ten-Ten and her boys subdue the spook but on arriving in town are arrested for corpse smuggling by the bumbling Police Chief (Boon Saam). As a result there is a vampire on the loose.

The Hello Dracula films were Taiwan's more child-oriented variation on Mr. Vampire (1985), the groundbreaking Hong Kong 'hopping vampire' film that spawned a string of sequels and imitators. Though little known in the West, to the point where no source can agree whether this 1988 film was the first or second in the series, the franchise remains immensely popular in Taiwan. Its success established adorable child star Liu Chih-Yu, sometimes billed as Shadow Liu Chih-Yu, as a top box-office draw in her native land. She not only headlined all but one of the six sequels but also such colourful children's fantasies as Child of Peach (1987) and Twelve Animals (1990). It is easy to see why the Taiwanese audience were so taken with Liu Chiu-Yu. She is an engaging presence and brings welcome charm and energy to frequently ridiculous scenes. Notably when Ten-Ten leads the vampires in a strange duck quacking song-and-dance routine that, alongside the scene where little vampires play baseball (did the makers of Twilight (2008) see this movie?), earned Hello Dracula no small amount of infamy among cult film fans.

Despite sporting a mix of Taoist lore and slapstick action quite similar to Mr. Vampire the humour is far more puerile and the drama more sentimental reflecting the tone of much Taiwanese children's fare. If the scatological laughs, including the inevitable accidental piss-drinking gag, remain an acquired taste (pun intended!) the film's darker, more horrific moments are surprisingly suspenseful. A weird, slightly queasy romantic subplot concerns portly stooge Shih Kua Pih's frustrated ongoing attempts to romance Ten-Ten. She is having none of it (quite right too, she's barely ten years old!) and repeatedly rebuffs him whereupon he is soundly mocked by his fellow kung fu kids. Upholding the faintly sadistic streak prevalent throughout Taiwanese children's cinema, Hello Dracula 2 plays Kua Pih's humiliation for tragicomic pathos and features a remarkably high body-count. And I am not just talking about the undead. There are some shocking moments of violence culminating in a downbeat denouement that is especially jarring for a children's film. Yet it is these whiplash mood shifts and eccentric juxtaposition of sentimental and apocalyptic elements that give the film its unique flavour. Though not as well crafted as Mr. Vampire, Hello Dracula 2 is just as appealingly odd.

The plot also includes an interesting if mildly xenophobic twist. A Catholic priest and nun arrive in town along with an unscrupulous European entrepreneur named Mr. Robert. They want to buy the vampire corpse for the purpose research but their strange foreign garb freaks everybody out. In a metaphor for western colonial interference, Mr. Robert sees the little vampires playing baseball and makes up his mind to steal him for a sideshow attraction, thus enraging Daddy Vampire and causing chaos. On the one hand it is that old staple: clueless westerners meddle in things they do not understand. Yet the Catholic priest is portrayed sympathetically as a kindly man who respects Chinese customs. He also busts out some inexplicable kung fu moves to take down the undead leading one to wonder if Peter Jackson ever saw Hello Dracula 2 before including his own kung fu kicking priest in Braindead (1992)? Hello Dracula 2 also includes a hint of nunsploitation. The saintly sister disrobes for a bath unaware a reanimated corpse is copying her every move. Again not the sort of thing one expects to see in a children's film. Only in Taiwan. Or Hong Kong. Sometimes Japan. Okay, fine, only in Asia.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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