Shaolin vs. Evil Dead (2004)

shaolinvsevildead

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Rival Taoist masters face off but in the midst of things, chaos ensues in this martial arts-horror hybrid.

Brother White is a Taoist priest who despite having to face off against numerous undead adversaries believes in saving souls rather than destroy them. Along with his two proteges, Sun and Fire, the group embarks on a restaurant that turns out to be haunted. During their battle, a mysterious figure arrives and destroys a soul. That figure is Brother Black, a one-time classmate of White’s who has turned to black magic. He vows to destroy all undead souls no matter what it takes.

During one of White’s excursions, the young Fire accidentally swallows an egg and at first it seems like no big deal. That is, until it is revealed that the egg is actually that of a spirit. Fire starts to feel funny. Meanwhile, Sun begins to have feelings for Moon, who is Black’s protégé. He gets nervous when he sees her but eventually he makes his feelings known. However, the battle between White and Black continues when Black arrives in a haunted village and vows to help the townsfolk by doing a ritual and teaching the children martial arts. When White reveals Black’s true nature, he is ousted and seeking revenge, Black finds a rare stone that turns out belongs to the King of the Vampires, who has been freed as a result.

Douglas Kung, a staple of Hong Kong action films of the 80’s and 90’s, as a stuntman and action director, has attempted to revert back to the glory days of old and with this film, he attempts to make a “jiang shi” thriller. With former kung fu fighting diva Sharon Yeung Pan-Pan as executive producer, and his experience, this should be quite an interesting film. And it is interesting, but not for all the right reasons.

A positive note is that the film’s two leads are top martial artists, one a lead, and one who has been working hard for the past two decades and got his name known. They are Gordon Liu as the older, calmer Brother White and Louis Fan as the sometimes dastardly and mean-spirited Brother Black. It is clear that White is the one who attempts for Black to not destroy souls, but Black is truly a character with not the greatest of intentions and when these two duke it out on a few occasions, the result is not too bad and their little “battles” can be said to be the only good thing about the film aside from a nifty fight scene called “phantom chess”, where Black’s mini-vampire horde takes on White’s mini-Shaolin monks.

That’s not to say the supporting cast isn’t bad in terms of their performances. It is just that the writers decided to put them in some unnecessary subplots that seem to either go nowhere or are just flat out ridiculous. For one, Jacky Woo’s Sun has feelings for Shannon Yao’s Moon and this provides much of the comic relief of the film. Woo’s attempt at slapstick comedy when he attempts to talk to Moon isn’t quite funny and when he finally musters up the courage and she gives him a possibility, it ends up pretty much going nowhere due to her loyalty with Black.

That is nothing compared to the character of Fire, played by Shi Xiao-Hu. From his name, one can only guess he was a Shaolin disciple, but here, he is terribly wasted as he also must provide comic relief but in the most ridiculous of manners. The spirit egg at times makes Fire look well, “pregnant”, but when it comes time for the “birth” sequence, it is done by going to a toilet in which the toilet explodes and the young actor playing the so-called “baby” is seen covered in what could only be shaving cream and runs behind Fire calling him “mama”. It’s definitely an eye-rolling moment of epic proportions. And the way the film ends will guarantee that heads will roll.

Shaolin vs. Evil Dead had the potential, but ultimately fails on most levels with the exception of a few battles, notably the “phantom chess” sequence. However, it is apparent that the unnecessary humor of the film as well as the film’s ending will make fans most likely avoid this, unless they are true Gordon Liu fans. The, the curiosity factor will hit.

WFG RATING: D+

My Way Film Company presents a Wo Ping Creative Team/Pan Pan Production Ltd. Film. Director: Douglas Kung. Producers: Jeremy K.P. Cheung. Writer: Ho Yiu-Wang. Cinematography: Kwan Chi-Kan. Editing: Grand Yip.

Cast: Gordon Liu, Louis Fan, Shi Xiao-Hu, Jacky Woo, Shannon Yao, Kit Cheung, Zho Lung-Lung.

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