Combining genres can be a difficult task. Many times it seems like one tends to win out over the other and the whole thing winds up feeling unbalance, sort of a”Hey, you got too much action in my horror!” kind of thing. Comedic can be even trickier to pull off when mixing with horror or action, but Shaolin Vs. Evil Dead (or Shao Lin jiang shi) does a pretty good job of combining zombies, horror AND action. It’s not the funniest, scariest or ass-kickingest movie imaginable, but there’s a fun vibe to the proceedings that made for a fun viewing experience. It was also dubbed, which regular readers will know I prefer.
Real quick, did you know that Gordon Liu was the star of the Kill Bill flicks? That gave me a chuckle. Anyway, Liu plays a kind of zombie-loving shaman worrier. He uses his fighting skills and kung fu magic in an attempt to put the souls of the walking dead to rest. Meanwhile, there’s a guy who does the same thing, but he destroys the zombie souls. Or something. I’ll be honest, the movie bounces around a lot, I wasn’t giving it my full attention and then it abruptly ended, supposedly to get you more interested in the sequel, but it was pretty jarring. Liu has a pair of young men following him around who bring a lot of the comedy with them, like when they ask why zombies walk with their hands outstretched, but Liu gets in on the action with chuckle-worthy lines like “Be polite to everyone, even the dead.”
Seeing as how this is double billed as both a Halloween Scene and a Friday Fisticuffs post, I figure I should get into both the horror and action aspects. To be honest, nothing really scary happens in the movie. I only even labeled it as horror because of all the zombies. They’re not your typical zombies, though I’m not sure if that’s because of an injection of creativity or my unfamiliarity with Hong Kong horror tropes. As it is, you get the occasional scenes with the bad guys in zombie make-up (they can somehow disguise themselves as regular people) and if my memory serves there’s no real blood and guts. There was a gross scene towards the beginning with maggots, but this is not the place to go if you’re looking for seeping wounds or buckets of blood, even if the zombies occasionally looked pretty good.
The action scenes were fun, but nothing extraordinary. I think I liked the idea of a martial arts guy kicking zombie ass than actually seeing it in this movie. I would love to see Tony Jaa do a movie like this that looks and feels a lot more real. As I mentioned on twitter, the movie made me think of something like Dragonball Z vs. zombies, because they didn’t just fight them, but also used magic. I thought that was a really cool touch and led to some really interesting scenes, including the one at the end where one of the guys fights a demon type thing in cool looking armor. To be more accurate, though, the movie’s more like if the people who made Power Rangers got the chance to make a Dragonball Z versus zombies movie as many characters have a tendency to be overly goofy and do things in the grandest manner possible.
Look, this movie is in no way a classic. It oozes with goofiness and doesn’t get into the horror territory as much as it could have, but at the end of the day, I’m really glad I watched it. In fact, I’d highly suggest getting a group of friends together with a case or two of beer and having a wonderful time watching the movie. It’d probably make sense to jump right into the sequel which I have yet to see (maybe for next week’s HS/FF)!