Friday, April 23, 2010



On the night that Shiang (Donnie Yen) and a small group of his female students are having a late night picnic, the moon turns red and from out of nowhere comes a man who quickly knocks Shiang out and attacks all of the girls. When Shiang awakes, he finds his students dead, and quickly becomes the main suspect in their murders. Local police inspector Chen takes up the case, and begins to follow Shiang around. When a second murder takes places, it happens in a small temple. Shiang and his private investigator friend do some research, and discover that temple is for worshipping a god in an ancient religion that in Cambodia.

Shiang and his group of friends head into Cambodia, in the search for the tribe that still worships this religion. They have also discovered that the man who attacked Shiang is actually the inhuman Moon Monster. Once in Cambodia, they cross paths with the Princess White, who has been charged by her tribe to kill the Moon Monster. They are on a tight deadline though, for when the New Year begins, the Moon Monster will regain all of its powers and become unstoppable. Will Shiang, Princess White, and their friends be enough to put an end to an army of machine-gun totting fanatics and the vicious flying Moon Monster?

In this everything-but-the-kitchen-sink Category III extravaganza, logic and taste are thrown out the window to make room for a hodge-podge of erotic-tinged fantasy, supernatural horror, insane action, wire-fu martial arts, and pure exploitation. This is classic Hong Kong entertainment, the kind where the plot seems to have been made up as the movie was being made, where action set pieces are placed at even ten-minute intervals, where crude sexuality is debased to even cruder comedy, and where the film title offers more to the imagination than the actual film. This is definitely not the kind of Hong Kong import that has any fear of being remade. Ever.

Donnie Yen, who is the star of this because of his name recognition, and not due to his screen time, plays a meek teacher until it is he is threaten. He gleefully pushes the stereotype that all Chinese know kung-fu, for his character is given no background as to why he knows how to do flying spin kicks and scorpion kicks. He just naturally does. The rest of the actors, if they can even be called that in a production such as this, also are well versed in advanced martial arts, and are proficient in operating machine guns as soon as they pick them up. Pauline Yeung, who was Miss Hong Kong 1987, as Princess White, is the films main source of charming eye candy (but who is the only female actress not to go nude) and holds her own as a female warrior. She glides through the air with ease and has at her command a host of magical spells. But it is Ken Lo, Jackie Chan's then bodyguard and cinema career bad guy, as Moon Monster who takes the cake. His Jon Bon Jovi and Joe Elliot inspired wardrobe, long flowing black hair, and snarling growl make his performance truly memorable.

Part of the charm of HOLY VIRGIN VS THE EVIL DEAD, apart from the fact that there are no holy virgins and no evil dead mentioned in the entire film, is the ludicrous low-budget nature. The special effects, including lightning bolts, energy beams, and glowing eyes, are literally painted on the frames in post-production. Quick and choppy editing allow the characters to fly or leap great distances. Sound and Image rarely sync up, as the soundtrack was created after principal photography. The English subtitles, which disappear half the time when there is too much white on the screen, include such zingers are "bastard, run you!" and "hold it or I'll shoot her to dead!" And the music score, composed of mostly synth-score snippets on repeat, sets a truly ridiculous tone. Even White Princess' sword has a diddy that gets played each time it is drawn.

Though stamped with the nefarious Category III, it avoids the truly nasty territory that many of its brethren would wallow in. Instead, director Wong Chun-Yeung is merely dancing with joy at the freedom of the rating that was new at the time, and seeing just how far he can go with it. He succeeds in creating a high watermark example of the what-the-heck-did-I-just-watch cinema which was pouring out of Hong Kong at the time. It is films like this, which have sadly been weeded out of Hong Kong as their moviemakers became more internationally conscious, that made Hong Kong the go to source for exciting, unique and over the top movies in the first place and gave Hong Kong its international appeal.


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