(Ling Huan Xian Sheng)
Hong Kong. 1987.
Director – Ricky Lau, Screenplay – Lo Wing-keung & Szeto Cheuk-hon, Producer – Samo Hung. Production Company – Bo Ho Films., Ltd
Lam Ching-Ying (The Master), Richard Ng (Mao Ming), Billy Lau (Chiang), Lui Fong (Ta Pao), Ho Kin Wai (Hsi Pao), Wong Yuk-waan (Devil Lady)
The Taoist priest Mao Ming is conducting an exorcism of a haunted house when he tames and befriends two ghosts – those of father and son Ta Pao and Hsi Pao. However, when the two ghosts humiliate Chiang, the pompous assistant of a great Taoist master, the master captures them in a jar. In an attempt to get them back, Mao Ming succeeds in unleashing another ghost. Ta Pao and Hsi Pao are then captured by a crazed devil lady who lives in the forest and are sent back by her to create mischief. In between trying to deal with other ghosts popping up everywhere, Mao Ming tries to save his two good ghost friends.
Mr Vampire III was the second of no less than five sequels to the hit Hong Kong supernatural comedy Mr Vampire (1985). All of the films in the series with the exception of the fourth sequel were directed by Ricky Lau. Mr Vampire was a complete delight but Mr Vampire II (1986), the second entry, which had directly preceded this, had overbalanced the wacky, high-energy charms of the original into frenetic slapstick. That overbalance is fairly much the same here, even if Mr Vampire III is a slightly better film than Mr Vampire II. This would be followed by Mr Vampire 4 (1988), Mr Vampire V (1990) and Mr Vampire 1992 (1992).
Mr Vampire III brings back the ghost father and son and son that appeared in the second film, as well as the character of the cowardly bespectacled idiot played by Billy Lau. Although, while Mr Vampire II was set in the present day, Mr Vampire III has a period setting so clearly continuity is not a major concern to the series.
Director Ricky Lau plays the entire film at the same level of inane slapstick that he did the predecessor. Particularly silly are almost any of the scenes with the pompous idiot Billy Lau, involving jack-in-the-boxes or the two ghosts causing him to balance on his fingertips in a restaurant and pinch people’s bottoms; or other scenes with various people being pursued by the Taoist in a chicken suit; or a half-melted ghost that looks like a person covered in porridge.
It is all directed by Ricky Lau with a maximum of stupidity and frenetic shrillness and accompanied by cartoonish sound effects. There is no particular plot – just a good deal of this manically silly freneticism. Although it could be noted that the basic set-up does bear a certain resemblance to the plot later used by Peter Jackson in The Frighteners (1996).
On its plus side, Mr Vampire III returns to the same wildly fantastic moves that the original film had. This film does eventually attain a certain colourful dementia amid all the silliness – ghosts producing three metre long arms out of their sleeves; the high energy battle in the forest with the combatants only able to cut opponents when they have blood on their sword and the devil lady tossing burning rocks about with her bullwhip made of hair; ghosts seen to be walking people they are possessing along on their feet; the capturing of ghosts with glowing ropes; various people attempting to hide by coating themselves with tar; the devil woman producing hordes of bats, roaches and such like. Appealingly silly dementia – if only Ricky Lau had cut back on the moronic slapstick that overruns the rest of the film.