VAMPIRE CLEAN-UP DEPT.
(Hong Kong 2017)
Original Title: Gau Geung Ching Dou Foo
Directed by Chiu Sin Hang, Yan Pak Wing Produced by Angus Chan Action by Tang Shui Wah, Chi Man Wong, Chan Ga Leung
Starring: Babyjohn Choi, Chin Siu Ho, Richard Ng, Yuen Cheung Yan, Lo Meng, Eric Tsang, Lin Min Chen, Bondy Chiu, Susan Yam Yam Shaw, Andy Tsang
Reviewing: Panorama HK DVD Release
Genres: Vampire / Comedy / Action / Horror
Rating - 3.7 / 5
DVD Synopsis: Unbeknownst to other people, there has been a secret government organization called VCD – Vampire Cleanup Department. One night, the nerdy geek Tim Cheung (starring Babyjohn Choi) sees a hideous vampire in a dark alley. He is scared and promptly faints. He is saved by Uncle Chau (starring Chin Siu Ho) who believes in his ability to recover quickly after being beaten by vampires. In his first mission of hunting vampires, Tim gets lost and meets a lady vampire. Summer (starring Lin Min Chen). Tim thinks she is harmless to human, so he hides her in his some out of helplessness. As Summer gets along with Tim, she learns to be human again and even communicates with Tim with body language. Tim has to hide Summer away from VCD. Secret never keeps long, Uncle Chau is furious knowing the relationship between Tim and Summer, and decides to terminate Tim's job at VCD. Meanwhile, the 'Red Moon' phenomenon appears once in a century, drawing the most powerful Vampire King to rise from his grave! The police is not able to control it and suffers severe casualty. Tim plans to find Uncle Chau to reunite VCD, so as to save Summer and fight against the Vampire King. Can Tim successfully rescue Summer? Can Tim convince Uncle Chau to accept Summer as a harmless vampire? Is VCD able to stop the Vampire King from haunting the city?
Views: All over Hong Kong, gruesome murders are happening that leave their victims turned into vampires. After every attack, follow the Vampire Clean-up Department, a group of dedicated vampire hunters who have been protecting the city for decades. While on a walk one evening, clumsy geek Tim (Babyjohn) comes across a vampire attack and nervously steps in to help, which results in the monster sinking his teeth into the screaming nerd's backside. Rescued by the VCD, Tim wakens in their secret hideout and is invited to join the team due to the fact that he was turned by the vampire bite. After a tour of the place and reluctant introduction to the team, Tim soon finds out that his parents were once the managers of the VCD and agrees to take on the role. Once in, Tim finds that most of the aging vampire hunters are willing to help, but Uncle Chau (Chin Siu Ho) proves to be a challenge. Matters between them are made worse when, while on a mission, Tim clumsily falls into a lake and comes lips-to-lips with a female vampire who suddenly loses her demonic looks to become a beautiful girl called summer (although still very much undead). As the team take the Summer back to base, they soon learn that a more powerful vampire – known as the Vampire King – has appeared due to the arrival of the centennial Blood Moon! Making a move to find it, Tim is left in charge of cremating Summer, something of which he also messes up quite easily as he falls for the beautiful corpse and hides her in his apartment – leading to a host of comedic and romantic situations. As his training continues, Uncle Chau starts to warm to Tim helping him learn kung-fu so that he can protect himself against vampires, but it doesn't last long. Finding out that he has been hiding Summer in his apartment, Uncle Chau fires Tim from the VCD and sends him packing. To make matters worse, the police break in to the VCD to steal Summer and put a stop to their operation that sees the VCD team dispersed. In a bid to make amends and put a stop to the Vampire King, Tim does what he can to bring the team back together and help make the city a safe place – as well as trying to rescue Summer in an emotional finale that sees the VCD put an end to the Vampire King once and for all...
I quite like Vampire Clean-up Department! Any film that spins off a classic such as Mr. Vampire with past original cast members such as Chin Siu Ho and Richard Ng, and fills the rest out with great names such as Yuen Cheung Yan, Lo Meng, Eric Tsang, and the wonderful Susan 'Yam Yam' Shaw, gets my vote! On top of that, throwing the cute Babyjohn Choi (yes that's how he spells it) into the mix proves to be an entertaining addition to the team, and to be honest, I'd love to see some sequels on the way. Although he has appeared in quite a number of big titles since launching his acting career in 2008, such as 12 Golden Ducks, SPL 2, Ip Man 3, Shock Wave (and its sequel) and a number of the Storm films from David Lam, Choi still seems like a relatively new face to Hong Kong film fans. He definitely handles the charm and comedy very well, but doesn't exactly give off that action-hero energy – especially when starring alongside martial arts heroes like Chin Siu Ho, Lo Meng, and Yuen Cheung Yan. By this stage of the game, Chin had starred in over 100 films and while it seemed that his star was fading in the late 90s, he would continue to appear in smaller titles for a good decade or so. Things would eventually pick up and fans would see him back on the big screen in films like A Battle Of Wits, The Lost Bladesman, Lets Go!, and the wonderful Rigor Mortis that I just loved!
While it is far from the perfect return of the Mr. Vampire series, Vampire Clean-up Department does a great job in modernising such a well-told-tale for a new audience. The only thing holding it back from a higher rating for me is the over abundance of CG effects used, which often distracts form the genuinely great vampire make-up and action scenes and weren't really needed when you think what wonders the film makers could do, over 30 years ago. Regardless, the film does entertain a lot and while its writers and directors are still new to the industry, the film manages to capture some charm of the classic series along with great comedy sequences and decent action. And while the fights in Vampire Clean-up Department are nothing spectacular, they still entertain enough to a certain degree. These were handled by Johnny Tang Shui Wa, an actor/choreographer who is still relatively new to the industry (at the time of writing) with credits behind the scenes on films like Red Cliff, Golden Job, Overheard 2 & 3, Helios, and Black Ransom, as well as many others. Directors Chiu Sin Hang and Yan Pak Wing, both of whom have cameos in the film, do a fine job with their first film and clearly show a love for the aforementioned classics that inspired their project. As mentioned, I only hope they can return with some sequels to this and get to start their own franchise of the much-loved genre. And although they get some good scenes and screen time, I did feel that Yuen Cheung Yan and Lo Meng were criminally underused in the action department, but you can't have everything I guess. And of course, the amazing Richard Ng continues to entertain with some great comedy moments and his undeniable on-screen charm. I must also point out one welcome note that comes just before the end battle. As the team reminisce about their time together and Bondy Chiu flicks through some photographs, we catch a glimpse of the original vampire hunter himself – the great Lam Ching Ying – which just seals the deal on that connection to his infamous series, backed by a line mentioned briefly at the start of the film.
I think Lam Ching Ying would be proud!
Overall: With a little less focus on the CGI and more on the action, VCD could have been much stronger film, but it still proves to be highly entertaining and got me wanting more!
DVD Extras: Trailer, Music Video, Making of Documentaries