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FilmsAsia: Asian film reviews
Soh Yun-Huei
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   Era of Vampire, The  


The Era of Vampire

Reviewed by Soh Yun-Huei

Director: Wellson Chin Sing-Wai
Producer: Tsui Hark
Writing Credits: Tsui Hark
Actor: Michael Chow Man-Kin, Lam Suet, Yu Rong-Guang, Lee Lik-Chi, Wong Yat-Fei
Genre: Horror
Languages: Cantonese
Country: Hong Kong
Year released: 2003
Rating: ½ star (out of four stars)

The Era of Vampire bears a big name on its marquee - that of Tsui Hark, the Hong Kong producer-director that brought audiences Once Upon a Time in China and The Swordsman series. However, Tsui Hark’s track record has been unspectacular in recent years, his last directorial outing The Legend of Zu being panned by audiences and critics alike. Tsui Hark is in the capacity of writer-producer for The Era of Vampire, the actual director being Wellson Chin. Unfortunately, The Era of Vampire is not any better than The Legend of Zu. It’s actually arguably worse. An incoherent plot, terrible editing, and special effects that simply isn’t up to par even when compared to other HK films. The Era of Vampire is a bona fide dud.

The story is about the four disciples in a clan of vampire hunters - Thunder, Lightning, Wind and Rain - who loses their master Mao Shan (Ji Chun Hua) whilst battling a very powerful vampire. Unconvinced that their master is actually dead, they start out on a journey to try to find him. Their investigations lead them to an eerie mansion owned by the Jiang family, headed by a creepy Master Jiang (Yu Rong Guang). Assuming the identities of Kung (Lam Suet), Hei (Ken Chang) Fatt (Michael Chow) and Choy (Chan Kwok Kwan), they pretend to be servants at the Jiang mansion, whilst investigating the creepy corpses that are kept there - you see, the Jiangs are experts in using wax to preserve meat, and that includes all the deceased of the Jiang family.

At the same time, the sinister Dragon Tang (Horace Lee Wai Shing) betroths his sister Sasa (Anya) to the son of Master Jiang, in an attempt to acquire some of the Jiang’s riches as his own. His plan is partially foiled when Master Jiang’s son dies; enraged, he calls upon the services of a zombie wrangler (Chan Koon Tai) to reanimate the waxen corpses in the mansion. This attracts the attention of the powerful vampire, and a massive showdown between vampires, the good guys, and the bad guys are set to begin?

The screenplay of The Era of Vampire is a complete mess, and it’s surprising that Tsui Hark actually managed to come up with something this bad. The screenplay flits from subplot to subplot, and there is almost never a logical flow from scene to scene. The movie can switch rapidly from an action sequence to a pointless romantic interlude, then suddenly jump to a scene where the vampires wreak havoc. If your head doesn’t start spinning from trying to keep track of the story, the poor editing should do the job. The editing can be so bad that it can become quite impossible to see who the participants in a fight sequence are.

And then there’s the creature design. Instead of sticking to either the tried-and-tested vampire designs, or coming up with something new and menacing, the vampires in the movie are misshapen clumps of fake-looking decaying flesh, and it’s quite impossible to distinguish the features on the vampires’ faces. It’s kind of hard to feel any emotion, be it fear or otherwise, when looking at something so obviously fake. Despite the many, many ways the vampires can wreak havoc on humans - including spraying fire, Reign of Fire style, the vampires just don’t cut it as the bad guys. True, it’s a horror film, and there has to be a requisite suspension of disbelief, but the director and crew must at least try to help the audience. This does not happen in The Era of Vampire.

At least there is some good action choreography in the film, but that is to be expected in a Hong Kong film. Other than that, however, the movie simply plods along, and to add insult to injury, the film is almost two hours long. Factor in the lackluster acting, the cheesy dialogue, and the incredibly stupid denouement, The Era of Vampire is likely to be one of the worst movies of 2002. I must admit, however, that I did enjoy reading the overtly emotive English subtitles in the film - an example: a man shouting out his master’s name was translated to "Master! I am so sorry I wasn’t able to find you!!" It’s entertaining, but undoubtedly unintentional.

Final Word: How can a campy genre like vampire films become this unbearably bad? A complete waste of time and money.