Friday, March 17, 2017

Zombie Emperor – review

Director: Ying Hua*

Released date: 2016*

Contains spoilers

I stumbled across this 1 hour long kyonsi (not zombie) movie on YouTube and at the time of review can find precious little in the way of details about it. There does not seem to be an IMDb page nor the equivalent in the Hong Kong movie databases. I cannot find a DVD release of it on the usual Asian DVD sites. Hence the release date and director details may be incorrect. In fact even the title might be inaccurate.

It was hard-subbed in a Chinese language and English but the English subs were literal and made following the dialogue challenging to say the least. However it was possible to follow the film enough to review it – even though some of the nuance will have been lost in translation.

the swordswoman
It begins with two brothers in a pit arguing over who dug it. They retrieve something that seems to shine and, we discover later, that it is the pearl that holds the soul of the town. They run off with their prize but are chased down by a swordswoman, who kills one brother and is trying to get the second one when a swordsman intervenes. The fallen brother has a tattoo of a swastika (called in subs a black fork and is symbolic of a tantric cult).

The two face off (allowing the brother to escape) when a kyonsi in a golden robe appears (there is suggestion he is an emperor but the state of the subs don’t allow me to be 100% clear on the point). He bites the swordsman. Suddenly a monk, Mao, intervenes and puts a prayer scroll on the kyonsi’s head. It doesn’t remain there long as the kyonsi blows it off and escapes. The swordswoman runs off into the night and Mao brings the swordsman back to his hut.

sucking energy
To try and counter the vampire venom Mao administers snake venom and then binds the wound with, what looks like, sticky rice. However the infection is too strong and the swordsman is not restored to humanity until his soul is captured and put back in his body. As for the kyonsi we see him sucking energy (from what appears to be another undead) and he gets stronger and stronger. The three mismatched characters need to work together to get the pearl back (which the kyonsi is tied to). Other than that it is a very simplistic plot.

prayer scroll
It came across as quite silly in tone (especially around the kyonsi, who seemed to have a comedic element) and the plot twist was fairly obvious from the get-go. What I didn’t pick up on was any tangible atmosphere that would raise the film up and its short length didn’t allow it to be too convoluted in any satisfying way. That said I would like to see it again with decent translation. 3.5 out of 10.

At the time of review there is no IMDb page.

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