Vampire Movies Turning into Cultural Industry?

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ghost

Text: Lau Tin-chi:
Translated by Chapman Chen

At the beginning of the 1980s, Sammo Hung, Louis Sit (production manager of Golden Harvest) and I casually chatted about movie material in a hotel in Seoul. Director Hung told us about interesting stories he had heard in his opera circle, most of which were ghost stories!

Most people like listening to ghost stories, because they contain fright, suspense as well as mystery. They circulate particularly well in theatres, for opera actors are prone to bragging and cracking jokes at leisure. And it is said that ghosts are also drama fans, just that most audience are so absorbed that they are unaware of these “fellow watchers”.

Director Hung narrated a lot of his knowledge; I added certain elements of Japanese mystery fiction; and Louis Sit gave the final yes. When we returned to Hong Kong, we commissioned someone to write the script entitled Encounters of the Spooky Kind.

When the film script fell into the hands of Master Hung, an action element was, of course, added. Although he was somewhat plump, he was agile and his movements smooth. So much the more, he was born with such a comedy touch that he grasped the rhythm of the comedy down to every minute detail.

Encounters of the Spooky Kind is a pioneering, typical modern vampire movie of Hong Kong.

First of all, the sole stress on horror in former vampire movies is given a variation. On the one hand, the audience are frightened by the terrifying atmosphere; on the other hand, they are tickled by the situation of the protagonists and their related responses. Tension plus funniness, double entertainment.

Horror times comedy equals wonderful creation. You will understand if you have seen Roman Polanski’s The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967), which you will never forget. In the movie, a demonic vampire in a mysterious castle, followed by a crowd of blood-thirsty monsters, runs into an old, muddle-headed vampire killer accompanied by a silly disciple.

The two good guys find themselves in a hopeless situation full of dangers. On top of this there are the extremely sexy daughter of a tavern innkeeper and a young vampire who is fond of men. These together make up an intriguing interpersonal network and more than adequate laughing matter.

The main subject matter of Encounters of the Spooky Kind is still the conventional folklore of corpse mutation, as found in a number of Ching Dynasty notebook fiction. Unlike Western bloodsucker, this kind of vampires do not fear the cross and holy water. Only certain alchemists can subdue them by means of their magic weapons. The plot is about an unjust case, in which a good Taoist priest battle with a bad warlock. The film had a gross of more than five million Hong Kong dollars, triggering off the rise of this category.

The theme of these earlier vampire movies is still the ugly and the evil paying the penalty, the real bad guy being the manipulator behind the vampire. The vampire is originally a soulless body, which does not possess supernatural power until infected with a special force. (In this sense, it is close to zombie). Nonetheless, the evil force behind the vampire is human, the vampire being just a killing weapon.

Vampire, zombie and bloodsucker are all dead people, who possess mobility and even supernatural power, albeit lifeless. Their myth may express a kind of wishful thinking about life after death as well as fear, both of which are preserved in the human mind even in our era of science. They are excellent raw materials for creation and imagination, but, still, innovative creativity is needed to develop them into a cultural industry.


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