Ricky Lau's 1985 genre classic Mr. Vampire made the kung fu/comedy/horror hybrid take off into popularity that is immortal even to this day. Capitalizing quickly by making sequels, in an around Lau and producer Sammo Hung similar productions were being continually made and Taiwanese cinema wasn't late in wanting to latch on to the popularity. The four Hello Dracula (all starring child actress Liu Chih-Yu) movies made between 1985-1989 was one such result and the second reviewed here expectedly doesn't lead the pack in terms of impact and influence but paints a solid picture of what another crew completely was capable of.
Grandpa King (Gam Tiu) along with his granddaughter Tien Tien (Liu Chih-Yu) are transporting the corpse of Tien Tien's former master and are told the story of a kid vampire haunting the woods they're passing through. An encounter with it leads to the corpse they're transporting to reanimate. Meanwhile, the people of the town are demanding Grandpa King to take control of the hopping vampire situation a lot more thoroughly and a group of Westerners (two that are either dressed as or are a priest and a nun) see financial potential in transporting Chinese vampires back to the West. The chaos is on...
Although not coming aimed with a clear focus and echoing myths and battle-techniques when it comes to battling the hopping vampires that we all learned in Mr. Vampire, Hello Dracula 2 has pieces that gel into a charming, energetic, somewhat bloody and even gloomy whole. Obviously therefore all over the place, despite being aimed at children, it doesn't sink to a cartoony level all throughout that would've easily meant a grade of loud and grating.
The Taiwan crew prove equally as adept at providing atmosphere via smoke and the often utilized blue lighting scheme but within this it also means director Wang Chih-Cheng is not afraid to use said visual style as an excuse to go equally dark and light on us. There's plenty of slapstick such as when the kid vampire messes with the bell the vampire transporter uses the control his group of corpses, a dance sequence sees Tien Tien teaching corpses how to do the Quack and the inspired sight of the kid vampire playing baseball by himself using a human heart. The kids are even put at center when it comes to battling the titular vampires, engaging in altar rituals and acrobatic action. All are given a fair chance here, even the Western cast members (who actually speak English on the Mandarin dub in a surprise move) for action- and goofball purposes (the woman gets stuck with an obese vampire mimicking her every move as she disrobes, takes a bath etc).
There is a darkness to the tale of the kid vampire and the developments of the plot as Tien Tien is abducted and Gam Tiu's elder Taoist priest actually communicates well the distress and danger involved as his granddaughter may become an unfortunate victim of this world. Throughout energetic set pieces, there's even a gory impalement and one hell of a gloomy ending making Hello Dracula 2 one for those knowing Hong Kong and Taiwan cinema will take detours into various moods. It defined their cinema for a decade or two and while Hello Dracula 2 isn't doing that for its genre, it's very much recommended viewing to find out that Taiwan could measure up and achieve success when kickstarting something someone else actually did for them.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson