Dragon Against Vampire (1985)

Directed by: Lionel Cheung
Written by: Benny Ho
Producer: Joseph Lai
Starring: Elton Chong, Eagle Han Ying, Carrie Lee, Martin Kim & Robin See


IFD and working under the banner Asso Asia did pick up for distribution but also shot Korean made martial arts movies in the late 70s/early 80s but having established a winning formula with their Richard Harrison ninja movies, the genre bender Dragon Against Vampire is a Korean-sourced decision made later and a notable decision as it's kept intact. Because there's energy to be used beforehand when the genre blend is mild martial arts, horror, exploitation and comedy. Energy that is also used well within the feature and surprisingly, the lean towards dark horror scores.

A team of grave robbers consisting of amongst others Martin (Elton Chong) arrive at an inn and an area of possibilities but priority is changed as the inn is visited frequently by a Shaolin sorcerer (Eagle Han Ying) looking to achieve the ultimate power within his practice (finding untampered blood of virgins, via their vaginas). One by one is killed and left is Martin and the daughter of the inn owner who has to turn to the Shaolin sorcerer's own master to battle back...

Evidence of dopey comedy does exist in the early going since the Evil Dead-esque force shot is just a POV that reveals one in the grave robbing gang being obese. But with comedy more evenly spread out and not overbearing, the original filmmakers are attempting a broader focus on horror and atmosphere that for all its basic and crude intentions at points really does show a voice that could. Erotically- and horror-charged is really the template here though. The goofy idea of Eagle Han's sorcerer sucking the blood out of women's vaginas (not AS graphic as the description suggests by the way but it's pretty damn obvious the adults only feel going on here) feels less so because this is a rapist and murderer at heart too operating in moody sets with dashes of the red of Eagle's costume design and the classic Asian cinema blue shining through the windows. Quick cuts, use of shadow and light when introducing Eagle in particular is effective and a dark eroticism present in his attack scenes really does make the skin crawl unexpectedly.

In terms of character and conflict, it is present but everything is put on priority 2 as the threat takes center stage and Dragon Against Vampire was never designed as a morality tale anyway. The director simply can't wait to flash the gore- and gruesome cards and does so pretty well. Some subtle use of make-up but dealing more in blood splashed on actors, the various sequences within the always dark inn definitely shows the most sparks and there's even steamy sex with implied masturbation behind the walls. Not material Elton Chong would be associated with normally.

Despite setting the majority of the last half hour in daylight and bringing in familiarity when the story dictates the crippled master is training his new disciple, the prior, dark terror ride extends and is pretty jarring via various dream sequences threatening to take out main characters earlier than we expect. Mixing comedy and horror more freely at this point, it isn't intrusive and doesn't betray the continually rising stock built up through the Korean horror exercise starring martial arts genre actors. A successful IFD pickup in quality, possibly not money-wise but that's further testament to how the business process was handled at IFD.


reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson