29 December 2018 | lost-in-limbo
The 'Mr Vampire' series delivers again.
I simply adore MR. VAMPIRE, as it's one of my favorite films --- the perfect blend of comedy, martial arts and horror. Part 2 was enjoyable, if whimsical and Part 3, a strong ensemble cast that it is almost on the same level as the original. So the odds must be promising for MR VAMPIRE 4? Must be? Sure, Ricky Lau is back and it sticks to the formula (Taoist and his clumsy pupil battling the paranormal), but after Part 3 favored horror atmospherics, this time around it was leaning heavily on lightweight slapstick comedy, like Part 2 did. But the missing link; a stoic Lam Ching-Ying with his graceful martial art talents and it really does show in the final product. Still, I got a kick out of this over-the-top, playful and downright likeable HK supernatural comedy, even if now the franchise is at its most silliest.
There's not a lot to the story with its loose arrangement, even the whole vampire/antagonist angle doesn't come into it play until over halfway through. Therefore it kind of feels tacked on when that side of the story commences. The introducing scene of Anthony Chan (who returns after being in the original) as the four-eyed Taoist, herding his hopping vampires through the nighttime forest, where he encounters Pauline Wong Yuk-Wan's seductive fox spirit (blowing bubbles and glowing red kisses) is probably the most effective moment in the film. Mainly how it balanced its laughs, and dazzling fantasy elements with its stylish use of imagery. Then it becomes grounded, spending more time on student Chai-Le (Chin Ka-lok) trying to woo pupil Ching-Ching (Rachel Lee), while four-eyed Taoist and his neighboring Buddha monk (series regular Wu Ma) constantly feud, or try to better each other in their craft like in a competing live-action cartoon. It's Chan and Ma's dynamics and psychical interplay early on, keeping the film's energy buoyant and moving. The two eventually must settle their differences when an ancient vampire (in ghastly make-up FX) is resurrected by an electrical storm in the nearby woods. From then onwards all the ingredients are there; non-stop kung-fu filtered with slow-mo, minor aerial acrobats, frenetic pacing, fluorescent visual effects, hopping vampires, magic spells, firecrackers and a huge dose of broad humor all within tight quarters.