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Dating a Vampire

     

(left) Alex Fong and Miki Yeung, and (right) Sammy and Alex Fong

Year: 2006  
Director: Clarence Fok Yiu-Leung
Writer: Wong Jing
Cast: Alex Fong Lik-Sun, Yuen Wah, Miki Yeung Oi-Gan Sammy, Andy On Chi-Kit, Zuki Lee Si-Pui, Jessica Xu, Cynthia Ho, Vonnie Lui Hoi-Yan, Yuen King-Tan, Matthew Chow Hoi-Kwong
The Skinny: Another cheap horror-comedy from the film industry that does it best. Unfortunately, this time they conspired to do it completely and totally wrong. The latest front-runner for worst Hong Kong movie of the year. The main reason: it's bad.
Review
by Kozo:

     A month or so ago, this site reviewed Don't Open Your Eyes, a Wong Jing-related horror comedy that was roundly criticized, then begrudgingly called "partially amusing." Given the general state of Hong Kong Cinema, some kindness in judgment is understandable, though that rationale sometimes seems like a catch-all excuse. Have we really gone that soft? Are we so desperate for semi-decent cinema that we would excuse a barely average piece of moviemaking like Don't Open Your Eyes? Well...once you watch the recent Dating a Vampire, the answer to the above question is an unequivocal "Yes!" Don't Open Your Eyes is definitely quality-challenged, but next to Dating a Vampire, it should play Cannes and take home an award. Dating a Vampire is really that bad. And to insure that someone updates the karma checklist, it must be noted that Wong Jing had something to do with both movies.
     Eric (Alex Fong Lik-Sun) and Cheun (Sammy) are two medical students who opt to rent a flat in a secluded housing estate, the reason being to concentrate on their upcoming exams. Their best intentions go south damn quick; first of all, Cheun wastes time and acts extremely annoying, thereby ruining any chance at serious study time. Second, there may be vampires in the building. Eric becomes slightly enamored of Jade (Miki Lee), a pretty young thing who lives in the building with her older sisters (Zuki Lee and Cynthia Ho). But after a series of weird noises and the appearance of a man bleeding from the neck, Eric thinks something may be up. He enlists the help of TV occult expert Mister M (Yuen Wah), who all but confirms Eric's suspicions: the sisters are vampires. Worse, they must suck the life out of one good man to cure their aversion to daylight, and have ear-marked Eric as the designated "good man". But Jade is one of those insanely nice vampires, and doesn't want Eric to die. But Eric won't be rid of that easily, and decides to save Jade from her upcoming underworld marriage. Can he do it without becoming lunch in the process?
     Dating a Vampire is an obvious retread of the classic stories that also inspired the Chinese Ghost Story films, but Wong Jing also copies other sources with the Mister M character. Mister M is a charlatan occult expert who gets involved with real vampires, and is a direct lift of the Roddy MacDowell character from the 1986 film Fright Night. Mister M's character arc and even certain scenes are stolen wholesale from Fright Night, which might be considered unethical it weren't for Wong Jing's long history of stealing ideas. Knocking Wong Jing for lifting ideas would be like knocking Vince Carter for dunking basketballs; it's what they do best, and if they didn't do it then they probably wouldn't be themselves anymore. Besides, for an obvious cinema throwaway like Dating a Vampire, it shouldn't be that important if they steal an idea or two. What's important is that the stolen idea somehow makes it into a semi-entertaining motion picture. If you've seen Wong Jing's earlier efforts, you'll know that it's possible.
     However, Dating a Vampire neglects to steal anything resembling quality from its sources. The film possesses some semi-creepy staging, but the utter cheapness of the production hurts matters considerably. The sets are distractingly spartan, and the make-up laughably applied. The vampires' whiteface make-up frequently rubs off, and their claws look to be applied with rubber cement. The acting is also inconsistent. Miki Yeung and Alex Fong are passable, but don't generate enough chemistry to make their Chinese Ghost Story-like plotline even remotely compelling. Sammy overacts, as do the vampire sisters, and thanks to the cheap makeup and effects, they only look silly instead of frightening. Yuen Wah is his usual self, but Andy On is wasted as Alex Fong's big brother, an SDU officer who leads his team into the housing estate in a hilariously serious fashion. And the story? Slow and completely lacking tension. The dictionary is more exciting than the narrative of Dating a Vampire.
     The biggest killer here is the action, or the lack thereof. When the finale rolls around, we get treated to supernatural types jumping at each other like in the wild HK films of old - except they do it here in slow motion with distracting strobe effects that are all but guaranteed to induce seizures. Director Clarence Fok also employs jerky step printing, unclear framing, and murky moving camera. These choices were likely made by the filmmakers to disguise the lack of budget and choreography, but really, they don't do a good job of doing that. Back in the eighties, a bare bones plot and a lack of budget were compensated for by actual creativity, be it hyperstylized camerawork, lurid production design, or entertaining action and wirework. Dating a Vampire compensates for its poor writing and low budget with stuff that's even worse. The result: an out-and-out bad movie, and another reason to give up on Wong Jing-produced work. That the man continues to be involved with such transparent commercial tripe is either a testament to his salesmanship or the result of some unknown deal with an evil supernatural power. Considering Wong's prolific output even during these depressing Hong Kong Cinema days, I'm starting to believe it's the latter reason. (Kozo 2006)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
CN Entertainment
Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

images courtesy of www.mov3.com

   
   
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