Promising idea lacks bite

Babyjohn Choi plays Tim, an aimless young man who takes it upon himself to protect a human-looking vampire in the horror comedy Vampire Cleanup Department.
Babyjohn Choi plays Tim, an aimless young man who takes it upon himself to protect a human-looking vampire in the horror comedy Vampire Cleanup Department.PHOTO: MM2 ENTERTAINMENT

REVIEW / HORROR COMEDY

VAMPIRE CLEANUP DEPARTMENT (PG13)

94 minutes/Opens tomorrow /3/5 stars

The story: Tim (Babyjohn Choi) is an aimless young man whose life takes a strange turn after an unexpected encounter with a vampire. He escapes unscathed despite getting bitten and finds out about the existence of a secret government unit called the Vampire Cleanup Department. But when he meets the human-like vampire Summer (Min Chen), he decides to keep her safe from annihilation.

Vampires in the West are sexy and seductive in shows such as Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) and True Blood (2008-2014), but they are seen as either comic creatures (New Mr Vampire, 1987) or hideous ones (Rigor Mortis, 2013) in Asia.

This movie tries to have it both ways. The big baddie is an odious and immensely powerful creature while Summer is more like a cute amnesiac than an undead corpse with a mean bite.

Before long, Tim (a suitably earnest Choi) finds himself falling for a creature he is supposed to be exterminating.

 

While romance has been successfully worked into the likes of Buffy and True Blood, it feels like a distraction from the main event here - namely, the taking down of vampires.

A savvier tweak is imagining vampire-slaying as a government job which opens the door for jokes about bureaucracy and red-tape.

The department is thinly disguised as a cleaning squad complete with sweepers wielding brooms.

The idea sounds promising, but the execution feels a bit of a stretch, especially with the broom-sweeping moves used to take down vampires.

Unless there exists a variety of vampire which resembles litter on the ground, I am not convinced they would be of much use in actual combat.

Another point of interest here is the number of veterans in the cast. Fans of classic Hong Kong movies would be happy to see the likes of Chin Siu Ho, Richard Ng and Lo Mang in action.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 15, 2017, with the headline 'Promising idea lacks bite'. Print Edition | Subscribe