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  Mr. Vampire 1992 Hopping back for one last bite
Year: 1992
Director: Ricky Lau
Stars: Lam Ching Ying, Chin Siu Ho, Ricky Hui, Sandra Ng, Nicole Tam Hoi-Yan, Tsui Man-Wah, Suki Kwan Sau-Mei, Billy Chow, Teddy Yip Wing Cho
Genre: Horror, Comedy, Martial Arts, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Two years on from the last sequel, director Ricky Lau returns to the hopping vampire franchise reuniting the cast of the original Mr. Vampire (1985). According to Chinese folklore the spirits of unborn or aborted babies return to Earth as vengeful, so-called Holy Ghosts. Taoist master Lam Ching Ying (by now so associated with his ghost-busting role, his character bears his name) and his bumbling assistants, Chou (Chin Siu Ho) and Man Choi (Ricky Hui) contain these errant sprites in handy clay Buddhas. Chaos ensues when our halfwit heroes revive the little ghosts as part of a get-rich-quick scheme, only for the moppets to magically fling them around the room and - somewhat disturbingly, given they are kids after all - twang Chou’s penis like an elastic band! Meanwhile, Master Lam is intent on eluding Birdie (Sandra Ng), a feisty female exorcist with a hopeless crush on the stern sifu. Birdie plies her trade helping folks with ghostly troubles, as when a local man feigns demonic possession to get out of telling his wife he spent last night in a brothel.

After some episodic comic antics an actual plot surfaces when comely maiden Nian Ying (Nicole Tam Hoi-Yan) arrives setting the boys hearts a-flutter and bringing Master Lam news of Michelin (Suki Kwan Sau-Mei), a former flame now married to a bumptuous Japanese general (Billy Lau) and expecting their first child. Hired to investigate her troubled pregnancy, Lam and co. discover Michelin’s nursemaid (Tsui Man-Wah) is really an emmissary for a Holy Ghost intent on using her baby as a vessel for its evil soul.

By the early Nineties Lam Ching Ying had made so many hopping vampire movies even this official entry in the Mr. Vampire series was almost indistinguishable from its imitators. Unlike the earlier films this was an independent production from Teddy Yip Wing Cho - who cameos as a sushi chef - rather than Sammo Hung, the original brain behind the series. Ricky Lau recycles motifs from several earlier entries, making this something akin to the franchise’s own greatest hits tribute except Hung’s absence is felt in action scenes that are efficient rather than spectacular while the special effects are more modest than before. A painterly sequence wherein Birdie and Nian Ying, sandwiched between rival ghost armies in flowing white and vibrant red, fight their way out zapping cartoon energy beams is a visual standout, while a scene in which Chou and Man Choi infiltrate a vampire coven disguised as bloodsuckers is especially amusing.

Elastic-faced comedienne Sandra Ng injects some manic energy, playing nicely off the reserved Lam Ching Ying, however the humour is noticeably cruder than before. In place of the original’s inspired slapstick fu, an abundance of childish toilet humour, vomit and sex gags betray the influence of the new box office kings of lowbrow comedy: Wong Jing and Stephen Chow Sing Chi. Having said that, the vampire battle where our diarrhea-ridden heroes need constant toilet breaks is funny in an admittedly puerile sort of way. The turn-of-the-century setting allows for some laughs at the expense of the Japanese colonial rulers, with Billy Chow again essaying his stock role as posturing comedy scumbag, but with added subtextual weight given he has not only stolen the hero’s girlfriend but his homeland.

Unlike Fist of Fury (1971) however the film lets the invader off the hook. Curiously, while the general repeatedly threatens to shoot our heroes and cheats on his wife with the ghostly nursemaid but still gets the girl. Meanwhile poor Lam is forced to marry shrewish Birdie in order to save the love of his life then watch as she slips away. The film also glosses over a poignant moment when lovelorn Man Choi selflessly shields Nian Ying with his body though she scarcely notices and the mild love triangle more or less evaporates. Ricky Lau’s frenetic camerawork keeps things bubbling nicely but none of the emotional conflicts raised by the plot are properly resolved, leaving this the least substantial entry in the series.

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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