Film review: Vampire Cleanup Department – Babyjohn Choi, Lin Min-chen in witty salute to Hong Kong horror tradition
This frothy but genuinely likeable movie may have a predictable plot but it’s filled with so many witty little jokes it would be churlish to complain
Four years after first-time director Juno Mak Chun-lung revitalised the horror element of the geung si (Chinese hopping vampire) subgenre with his stylishly bleak Rigor Mortis – and three years after Wong Jing produced the utterly generic Sifu vs Vampire – we finally have an adequate homage to the comedic tradition immortalised by Mr Vampire (1985) and its sequels.
Co-directed with verve and humour by young debutants Yan Pak-wing and Chiu Sin-hang, Vampire Cleanup Department recasts Rigor Mortis actors Chin Siu-ho and Richard Ng Yiu-hon as modern-day vampire hunters posing as street cleaners under a clandestine subsection of the Hong Kong government’s Food and Environmental Hygiene Department.
What emerges from this part-serious, part-parodic milieu of the undead is, surprisingly, a sweet romance between new recruit Tim (Babyjohn Choi Hon-yick), a geeky virgin immune to the vampire toxin, and Summer (doll-faced Malaysian pop singer Lin Min-chen), a century-old vampire resurrected as a beautiful and docile young woman completely at Tim’s command.
With a nod to artificial intelligence romances such as Her (Summer even “speaks” via Siri – a silly but effective gag), the film manages to fit this potentially creepy case of necrophilia into its entertaining whole. Although its story – save the girl and defeat her vampire boss – is predictable, Vampire Cleanup Department is peppered with so many witty little jokes that it’s hard to complain.
It’s another treat to see the industry veterans – also including Yuen Cheung-yan, Lo Mang and Susan Siu Yam-yam – ham it up in this frothy yet genuinely likeable film.
Vampire Cleanup Department opens on March 16
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