With Vampire Warriors, there is little doubt remaining that writer-director-real estate developer Dennis S.Y. Law is now the Ed Wood of modern Hong Kong cinema. As the sole leader (Law finances, writes, produces and directs) of his films, Law has few to blame but himself when it comes to the dismal quality of his creations.
Vampire Warriors, Law's latest filmmaking stab, is his attempt at creating a Twilight-type franchise that is marketable in both Hong Kong and foreign film markets. And it does have plenty for your typical western-based genre fanboy: there are vampires that know kung fu, vampires dressed in tight leather clothing and even an implied lesbian romance.
However, what those fanboys probably didn't ask for is Law's shoddy filmmaking, only matched in ineptitude by his incredibly thin script. Vampire Warriors follows the uneasy friendship between vampire hunter Ar (Jiang Lu-Xia) and a family of “vegetarian” vampires, including Max (Chrissie Chau) and her womanizing father Lung (Chin Siu-Ho).
Ar spends her days walking around hunting down bad vampires, while Max and her good vampire friends hang around town aimlessly, complaining about how bored they are. That all changes with the arrival of Mung (Yuen Wah), a vampire who kills other vampires to make himself more powerful. When Ar realizes that Mung's dragging her sister (Law regular Pinky Cheung) with him, she joins forces with the vegetarian vampires to fight their common enemy.
The plot may appear coherent, but it actually doesn't even begin until halfway into the film. Before that point, Law pads his script with the boring life of vegetarian vampires, vampire hunters eating Chinese vegetarian food, and Chrissie Chau sucking on a stuffed toy rabbit. Unlike other “bad” directors of Hong Kong cinema, Law probably takes his filmmaking seriously (he took up filmmaking as a hobby), but that doesn't excuse the fact that his crew didn't even bother to disguise their lead actress sucking the nonexistent blood of a toy rabbit.
While the action by Nicky Li Chung-Chi involves a lot of wirework that can be considered impressive for a production of this size, it feels like Li’s effort is wasted by Law's leadership. Even the film’s second-tier cast seems underused because of Law's incompetence. Jiang Lu-Xia is far too capable of a martial artist to only get work from Law, and Chin Siu-Ho has a B-movie charm that he doesn’t get to show enough of in films. However, Chrissie Chau's latest attempt at acting has been so overshadowed by her much-touted and media-publicized upside-down hanging scene that nothing she does seems here seems all that worth caring about.
As I wrote in my review of Womb Ghosts, watching a Dennis S.Y. Law film is only worthwhile to satisfy one’s curiosity about how bad Law can possibly get as a filmmaker. Very few directors can remain as consistently bad as Law after eight feature films, and that's what makes watching his films potentially amusing theatrical experiences.
I would argue that Vampire Warriors still has certain value because it's so fascinating to be able to watch such an atrocious excuse for commercial filmmaking outside of film school, let alone in your local multiplex. However, that value depends on many conditions, like whether you have a group of friends who are tolerant enough to sit through a Dennis S.Y. Law film with you. If you do have such friends, treasure them for the rest your life.
Ironically, Law's core message for the film is that one must find a purpose in life, or risk living without a purpose like his vampires. I think Mr. Law can rest assured that many people will get his message after watching his film and do something valuable with their lives. Whatever that valuable thing is, it'll likely be more worthwhile than sitting through Vampire Warriors again.
(Kevin Ma, 2010)