Sony // 2003 // 88 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // April 28th, 2004
A new age of darkness is dawning.
An overseas spin on the kung-fu vampire genre (if there is indeed such a thing), Vampire Effect provides the necessary whiz-bang-kapow of Asian fight choreography and passable special effects, but a too-quirky tone juxtaposed with living-dead bloodsuckers might be too much for viewers to suck...err, swallow.
Reeve (Ekin Chang) is a fierce vampire hunter working for the Anti-Vampire Federation (or something to that effect). To combat the forces of hell, he employs a variety of tactics, including his adept martial arts skills, a grappling hook, and a lady's haircut. He longs to work solo, as all of his partners have a habit of dying. I'm not real sure who's to blame for that, either.
So, after a particularly vicious bout of rock 'em-sock 'em vampires in a subway car, Reeve carries another deceased partner off into the fade. The Federation comes back with a replacement, the absolutely clueless Gypsy (Gillian Chung) who knows nothing about vampires or killing vampires. In fact, the Federation or whatever they are called would have been better off sending the fattest, loneliest comic book geek; he, at least, would know at least a tidbit or two about vampire mythology.
Meanwhile, Reeve's sister, Helen, starts a teeny-bopper relationship with Kazaf, one of the princes of the vampire nation. Little do the two lovebats know, the Duke, a very powerful vampire with a CGI left hand, has cooked up a plot to become nigh-invulnerable. He's been stealing the essence of the vampire princes, and now has only Kazaf's to pilfer.
And in a supremely superfluous time-filler tactic, Jackie Chan makes an appearance as a bystander caught in the middle, who then goes toe-to-toe with a couple of ghouls in a real goofy action sequence.
All three stories culminate at Kazaf's hideout, a church (eh, run that by me again?), where The Duke awaits, and Reeve becomes a different man, and Helen and Gypsy open up a can of whoop-you-know-what.
This movie is cheesy. It's stuffed-crust cheesy. It's Full House crossed with Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style cheesy. All of this, of course is a shame, seeing the subject matter.
The movie starts off promising with the nifty subway undead brouhaha. The fight choreography is half-decent, and I kinda dug the special effects, particularly when the vamps clambered up and down walls and flew through the air with the greatest of ease. The make-up left a little to be desired: extra + eye shadow + blue contacts + dollar-store fangs = scary vampire.
Even Kazaf, the Fifth Prince of the Vampire Nation, seems fairly cool. That is, until he starts his little relationship with Helen. The filmmakers would have us believe he's not that bad of a creature of the night because he prefers his blood from cups instead of pulsing jugulars.
But as soon as Kazaf starts talking on the phone, his eyes wide and doughy, with Helen in his neon coffin, that's when I branded him a complete creampuff.
The two female leads aren't that much better. Gypsy is a whiny little puke and Helen's just as annoying. The two engage in an ultra-corny rooftop fight where a teddy bear is the central weapon.
Reeve is okay, and he has a nice, kinetic scrap with a vamp in an alley, by far the best action piece in the movie. Unfortunately, his destiny leads him away from further fang forays, and that's a downer.
So now we have Jackie Chan, who must have owed director Dante Lam a big favor. He shows up as a groom in a dopey comedic wedding set piece with -- how original! -- a drunken bride and a stupid best man. We later find out he's an ambulance driver, which fails to explain how he could afford the six-carat ring he bought his bride. Eventually he does tussle with some vamps, and it's sub-par Chan stuff. In essence, he hides and climbs poles. The payoff, however, is remarkable. The two attacking vampire are force-fed some prescription medication and start dancing. No, I'm serious.
That's about it. After a promising setup, Vampire Effect collapses under the weight of its own lightheartedness, and ends up simply providing a generous helping of mozzarella-flavored mayhem.
The two 5.1 mixes, in Cantonese and English, are both relatively aggressive, though the surrounds are not used nearly as often as they should be, especially with the climactic super-fight at the end. The hokey dialogue is given plenty of legroom, though. The widescreen transfer is pretty sharp, and really delivers some nifty night scenes (i.e., the aforementioned alley fight). Trailers round out the presentation.
If one is going to make a goofy romp of a movie, one should probably stay away from going the "sadistic-bloodsucking-undead-route."
Guilty. The Frog brothers are summoned to dispatch the accused.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Cantonese, original language)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Rated R