Tsui Hark has created some of Chinese cinema's best, such as "Chinese Ghost Story," "Zu Warriors" and "Once Upon A Time in China."
So why exactly did he attach his name to this murky, incoherent action flick? "Tsui Hark's Vampire Hunters" is an attempt to recapture the kung-fu/vampire magic on the 1980s, but it manages to have neither plot nor character development. But it does have some wicked vampires and creepy atmosphere... its saving grace.
China is apparently riddled with the undead -- zombies that turn into vampires, and feed on the living. Wind, Thunder, Rain, Lighting and their master roam around getting rid of them, but during one nasty attack their master vanishes.
Three months later, they come to the Jiang house, where the beautiful Sasa has just been wed to young Master Jiang -- all six of whose past brides died on their wedding night. The next morning, HE'S the one dead of a snakebite. And so the Vampire Hunters are hired to find the snake, even as one of them falls in love with Sasa.
But Master Jiang has some secrets -- he preserves all his relatives in wax, and keeps a massive store of gold somewhere in the mansion (which is why Sasa's bandit brother married her into the family). And when a zombie wrangler arrives, the waxed corpses will return to unlife -- and the arrival of the king vampire will set off the final showdown between vampires and Vampire Hunters.
Admittedly with a name like "Vampire Hunters," you're expecting a cheesy movie, probably without much plot. And this movie delivers on that score, attempting to recapture the martial-arts/vampire-hunting charm of old "Mr. Vampire" style flicks, but forgetting to include the humor and slapsticky kung-fu.
The plot is messy and kind of haphazard, moving along slowly and throwing in some wire-fu battles and gruesome bloody death whenever it gets dull. The dialogue isn't much better, with little gems like one Hunter telling a girl he just met: "Good! Thunder has Sasa, and I have you." Real charmer, that one. What's more, the artificial romances feel like they needed something to pad out the thin plot until the King Vampire could show up, and we could have a literally explosive finale.
It does, however, have a few saving graces -- the horror ambience. It's dark, misty, filled with graves and spooky Halloweeny trees, and Wellson Chin lingers on the really horrible stuff like waxed corpses. And the vampires are pretty horrible -- they have rotted papier-mache faces with maggots, fly, tunnel underground, can't see you if you're wet, and suck the blood out of your eyeballs and mouth. Yikes.
The characters are decidedly lacking -- all four guys are basically interchangeable, and develop superstrength or other qualities without any prior warning, Neither of the villains serve much of a purpose plotwise (one dies LONG before the finale). Ji Chun Hua as the master is deeply cool, but he's in the movie for about five minutes.
"Tsui Hark's Vampire Hunters" attempts to be spooky, but ends up being mostly silly. Watch it for the creepy vampires and the ambience, not for the rotted dialogue or thin plot.