The Vampire Effect (2003)

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Maybe it was just the bad taste left in my mouth from Ringu 0, but the Vampire Effect came like a breath of fresh air after sitting through that series. Even before the credits roll, right up there on the screen is its “R” rating, with one declaimer, “for some violence.” So we already know what this film’s about: it’s a kung-fu film guest starring Jackie Chan with bad guys who are vampires instead of pirates or scofflaws, or whoever it is Chan usually combats. The vampire rules are laid out early, a good choice considering how unorthodox they are. There’s a new vampire family in town, buying a church to live in, but still feel the need to show off their royalty by “drinking” their blood, not “sucking” it. They also, as is shown in the opening, sometimes use flying bats as projectiles, which might be the coolest iteration of that myth ever.

The Vampire Effect takes the basic storyline of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and switch it so that it comes from the bloodsucker’s point of view. The daring, young church-buying vampire Kazaf (Edison Chen) falls in love with “his food” (as his advisor warns), and wants to start a cross-species relationship. (The only real difference between the two story lines is that Buffy’s Angel dined on rat blood, while Kazaf receives blood sent in monthly by his father.)

Naturally Kazaf’s love interest is Helen (Charlene Choi), the sister to Reeve the head of the Anti-Vampire Federation. Helen has no problem with Kazaf being a vampire (“I have a dog and a cat at home. What’s the big deal?” she rationalizes.), and has less of a problem stealing blood for him. Which is good, as Kazaf’s father has stopped sending him his monthly supply; as Kazaf’s family is killed in an attempt by Duke Dekotes (Mickey Hardt) to become vampire king.

(You’d think the vampire king story line would be the main plot, but you’d be wrong. The fight that determines Kazaf’s fate barely lasts longer than Jackie Chan’s two brief appearances.)

Given that this all is a Hong Kong action movie, it naturally moves at a speedy pace. So you won’t be surprised that while Kazaf and Helen try to find a blood source, Helen’s brother Reeve and new partner Gypsy (Gillian Chung) are trying to concoct a vampirism antidote at home. For some reason Gypsy masks the cure to vampire blood poisoning with the essence of banana, causing Helen to use it in the cake she bakes for Kazaf.

Not nearly as confusing as it might sound, the Vampire Effect plays as the Far East’s version of Once Bitten. Just with Jackie Chan ghost-riding an ambulance in the middle of a fight scene. This might be the only vampire movie where a couple of vampires are beaten by spraying them with packets of blood and then shoving antidepressants down their throats. They’re left happily standing in the streets, dancing the night away.

Vampire Effect’s one twist is killing Reeve off after he’s unable to find a cure for his vampirism. Normal movie conventions would have him suffer through the final fight, and then have Kazaf sacrifice himself so that his girlfriend’s brother could live. Instead Reeve gets staked by Gypsy, and we’re treated to a 20 vampire battle royale through a tabernacle with tons of wire work. Which is pretty much everything you could want from a HK vampire movie.

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