Horror Fu: 2000 and Beyond

by Michael Lauck on October 22, 2012 · 0 comments in Buddhist Blog

Well, the good news is that Asian horror is alive and well but the bad news is that the genre is moving further and further away from martial arts. In a way that makes sense because so many parts of the world stereotype all Chinese movies as kung fu movies! I bent the rules a bit early on to include movies such as “Black Magic,” mainly because it features classic kung fu movie stars. It doesn’t feel quite right to allow this for the movies of the last few years, though, Maybe if there was a Jackie Chan or Jet Li horror film I would cut them some slack, but there aren’t any!

Wesley Snipes continued his winning streak into the 21st Century with two sequels to Blade (imaginatively titled Blade II and Blade III). Kung fu flick fans may recognize Donnie Yen as one of the bloodsuckers in the second film and Francoise Yip in the third. Hopes for another Blade film are are bleak, though, after Snipes tax related prison sentence and the rights of the character reverting to the now Disney-owned Marvel. There was a TV version starring rapper turned actor Kirk “Sticky Fingaz” Jones, although it is fairly weak compared to the films. I only mention it because the box set of Blade films includes its pilot episode as a fourth Blade movie. Latching on to the vampire killer idea, Steven Seagal released the unforgettable Against the Dark. A vampire movie with a zombie apocalypse feel, it is only unforgettable because it is so terrible… so unwatchably terrible. Ekin Cheng joined Twins, Charlene Choi and Gillian Chung, in the vampire hunting film The Twins Effect (known in the US as The Vampire Effect). Although it was co-directed by Donnie Yen and the cast includes Anthony Wong and a Jackie Chan extended cameo, The Twins Effect just isn’t very good!

Japan tries to help the Halloween kung fu viewer with a couple of Ryuhei Kitamura films which we will tackle in reverse chronological order. That puts Aragami: The Raging God of Battle up first. Although some may not consider it a horror film, I maintain that Aragami has all of the elements for a great supernatural thriller. Creepy location, soldiers on the run, a mysterious, oddly threatening host and it ends with a sword fight. What more could you want? Samurai swords and guns against zombies (also wielding guns and samurai swords)? Fair enough. That’s Kitamura’s classic Versus. This is one of my favorite martial arts horror movies… so much so that we have decided to cover it every Halloween on Flying DVDs Of Death! But it isn’t my number one pick for the week (it almost was, but the winner has a better kung fu pedigree).

My number one pick for martial arts horror from the 21st century is Mummy 3: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. First of all, I’ll admit to having a weakness for the Mummy trilogy. They are fun films with an old school movie serial feel that don’t take themselves seriously at all. They are kind of like the original Indiana Jones films in that regard. It is the only martial arts horror movie to feature mummies (and yetis, too) but more importantly it has a great cast. Russell Wong, Isabella Leong, Anthony Wong, Michelle Yeoh and Jet Li all contribute. Better yet, it has entire battles between armies of the undead. How could it get any more fun than that?

After four weeks covering more decades and change, you should have plenty of viewing lined up to put a few high kicks and low blows in your Halloween viewing. I’m sure I missed some stuff (I did try to keep it to things fairly easy to get a hold of in the States), so if you have a suggestion be sure to add it in the comments.

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