Kung Fu Vampire Killers (2001)

Sex :
Violence :
Director Phil Davison
Writers Phil Davison
Starring Katherine Beresford, Ellie Swann, Vincent Wong-Ming, Aaron Orr, Christophe Summers, Ben Butler-Hogg, Phil Davison, Simon O'Sullivan
Genre Vampire
Tagline A gruesome comedy about Grave Robbers, Racism, and Headless Vampire Flatmare Corpses


“Quincy's dead in the loo and you think a movie monster did it!” - Lucy

Lucy is having problems completing her Masters Thesis at Otago University. Apparently she is studying DNA changes between homogeneous Hung people and their descendants who have migrated to other lands. Unfortunately for Lucy the Chinese authorities have a problem with tissue cultures being sent to international destinations. So where is she going to come up with 100 year old Chinese tissue samples to complete her paper? Enter her motley flatmates who decided digging up an old Chinese grave would be the answer to Lucy's problem, besides which it'll present a fitting ending to a night of cheap wine consumption and even cheaper cuisine.

Naturally this leads out intrepid crew to digging up the gave of Lin Piao, a Chinese gold miner who was executed over a 100 years ago. Jonathan, our resident Chinese mythology expert, warns that someone who has died a violent death and who is also a kung fu master comes back as a vampire. Board up the houses an undead Lin Piao is about to go on a rampage, can the Priests arrive in time to save the day, or will Dunedin wake up to a serious vermin problem?

Phil Davison's debut feature is in turns entirely amateur and showing some promise, that he would fulfil in 2005's Belief. The storyline is interesting, for those of us with no idea on the Chinese vampire thing, but the budget of $16,000 clearly restrains what can be done behind the camera. Davison makes some mistakes, post shooting editing must have been a shambles, stretches the odd scene way too far, but still manages to deliver a charming enough movie that will have true horror buffs happy with life. Yes the movie is schizophrenic but retains interest as you wonder what the hell the Director/Writer is going to come up with next.

So let's get the bad out of the way, exorcise the shoddy, before turning our attention to some of the cool aspects of a movie that is crying out for a remake on a larger budget. I counted the boom mike appearing in frame twice during the movie, yes this is fairly amateur. At the 6:05 minute mark where the operator simply can't get out of frame, and at the 33:50 mark where the mistake should have been edited out. You know you are into low budget movie making when the boom mike becomes a minor character. Equally Davison tries a little to hard to go artistic with his camera work. Sorry one too many colour filters in use, that don't actually achieve anything or add any value to the shoot, and those slow mo vampire fight scenes were woefully choreographed and headache inducing. Why exactly things switch to slow mo is never adequately explained and tend to take the Audience out of the scenes. Guess also the switching to black and white at purely random stages of the movie wasn't going to win friends and influence people, I initially thought it might be a problem with my DVD copy. So yes overall Phil Davison isn't exactly making a Hollywood big budget horror movie here, and there are problems with the movie that your popcorn demanding U.S audience is going to find hard to overcome.

Having said all that, there are aspects to the movie that I kind of liked, and which show with a tad more in the bank rolling department Davison might have delivered on something substantially more polished. The script is pretty decent, from the opening prologue piece that has a comatosed Father Merrin staring up at an ornate ceiling while a ceiling fan endlessly circles, right through to the expected “it's not all over” horror ending. Each of the character names is either a reference to William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist, the Priests, or Bram Stokers' Dracula, the student flatmates. And there's all sorts of referencing going down in incidental scenes, Lucy reading “Flare” magazine with an article titled “Carmilla”. I'm not an expert on Chinese Vampire cinema, but that whole “kangaroo hopping” vampire thing is apparently pretty representative of one strand of Chinese horror film making. Must admit it looks kind of dumb to these Western eyes, but Davison makes the astute decision to limit it to the video Jonathan hires, in what has to be said is one of the more contrived scenes.

While I'm not about to say that Davison achieves huge amounts of tension or has anything approaching a creepy atmosphere going down, you can see the genesis of ideas he would use to devastating effect in his later movie. Ergo Vampire Killers is worth dialling into solely on the basis of horror history alone, personally I believe Davison is about one movie away from the recognition he richly deserves.

Okay so I'm not about to say that Kung Fu Vampire Killers is a movie that every reader is going to dig, but for those prepared to take on-board Indie low budget efforts it's worth a look to see an early effort from a Director I believe will make a name for himself. About the only issue I had with the movie in terms of simple enjoyment, were some of the vampire fight scenes that seemed to go on for an inordinate amount of time. Other than that I enjoyed myself while watching the movie.

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ScaryMinds Rates this movie as ...

  A hard six for a movie that while enjoyable has some issues.