Some films benefit from HD, from seeing every effect crisp and clear, from seeing expressions and the beads of sweat on a character’s brow. Others were born to be a 3rd generation VHS copy, fuzzy round the edges and hiding a multitude of low-budget sins. Judge for yourselves thanks to the wonders of Youtube, but I think this film is an ideal candidate for the second category.
As well as the title, which is surely one of the greatest in the history of cinema, the opening credits pile on the awesomeness. They’re like edited highlights of what we’re going to see, so there’s lightsaber-looking things, demons with glowing eyes, some snippets of what look like home movie footage of a garden party, and the nude ladies.
Oh, there are a lot of nude ladies in this film. More than any non-porn film really needs, to be honest, and I get the feeling someone wanted to make a “Category 3” (the famous rating in Hong Kong cinema, where they’re either virtually pornography, exceedingly violent, or both) film but chickened out at the last minute. Anyway, if you’re a fan of vaguely unhappy-looking Chinese women getting their clothes torn off, this is the film for you!
The basic gist of this film is demons and Gods and so on. The main baddie, “Moon Monster”, wants to go back to the moon and take a woman with him; his boss, God Of All Mother (it’s how his name is shown on screen) has masks for his followers which look like a bit kabuki masks with large, bushy moustaches attached, also wants a whole bunch of naked women, for some reason. A teacher investigating the death of his students at the hands of Moon Monster and his cop friends, along with a super-ass-kicking Princess and her Dad, a local village elder in Cambodia, round out the cast. I’m confused writing that paragraph out, and I watched the film last night!
The first half of the film is pretty dull, with its fairly sedate police investigation, library research, long conversations, and only rare appearances from Moon Monster (looking really good in his wide-shouldered trenchcoat, feathered hair and carefully ripped jeans). This dullness may or may not be enhanced by the extremely poor quality of the subtitles on the version I watched, where English was seemingly an afterthought. If there’s bright light on screen, or anyone is just wearing white clothing, the subtitles become invisible, which lends certain dialogue-heavy stretches a pleasingly odd quality.
Anyway, the film kicks off when they take the investigation to Cambodia. It’s just an increasingly insane series of fights, as Moon Monster and God Of All Mother try and do whatever it is they’re doing, and our heroes try and stop them. It’s wire-fu all the way, and while it looks as silly as ever, the helping of liberal doses of gore and magic helps keep things moving.
Is this film worth watching, though? Well, it’s certainly unusual, which is almost qualification enough on its own, and Donnie Yen is always good fun to watch. But it’s just cheap, and stupid, and while I normally love cheap and stupid I just wasn’t feeling it for this film. Maybe if I’d been able to read more of the dialogue? Who knows. Anyway, it’s free so provided you’re in a good mood and don’t feel like really knowing what’s going on, there are worse choices.
Rating: thumbs in the middle
EDIT: Almost forgot – there are no zombies or anything that could be called “Evil Dead” in this movie, and I’m not 100% convinced “Holy Virgin” could be applied to anyone in the cast either. But “Small Town Teacher v. Moon Demon” would not be quite as catchy a title.