In the first sequel, Mr Vampire II, contemporary archaeologists pilfer the last resting place of a family of vampires. After they move the bodies to a lab and remove the sacred text written on paper and stuck on their foreheads, all hell breaks loose.
This is the least interesting in the series, mainly because of the contemporary and largely domestic setting. It lacks the cultural interest that comes from a deeper dive into Taoist and earlier beliefs about the supernatural that the other films offer. Still, stuff blows up and there’s hopping vampires marauding through 1980s Hong Kong streets.
Next up is, you guessed it, Mr Vampire III. This sees feudal era conman exorcist Richard Ng and his two undead facilitators bite off more then they can chew when an awesome witch is released from spiritual captivity.
Mr Vampire IV has two neighbours – a Taoist priest and a Buddhist priest – coming to blows over the correct way to fight off a vampire invasion.
Cunningly, the fourth film is not called Mr Vampire V, but Vampire vs Vampire. I’m not sure why, as this is the story of a Taoist priest fighting a Dracula-style western vampire who has stowed away with some missionary nuns.
The films all showcase the lesser-known but easily identifiable character actor Lam Ching Ying, who also starred in the original Mr Vampire film (which is not included here – the clue is in the title).
He acts as the straight man to a series of famous, more comic foils here, such as Yuen Biao. III and IV both have striking sequences featuring witches that look like they have anachronistically stepped out of 1993’s gothy The Bride with White Hair.
Extras include interviews with a couple of Taoist priests who give background to the beliefs and rituals showcased in the films. Apparently, the vampires hop in a line because corpses were sometimes preserved and transported suspended from bamboo poles held up by live runners. To passers-by, this looked like hopping, especially over uneven ground.
Both priests are mightily impressed by Lam Ching Ying’s eyes: apparently he has exactly the right look to stare down and command a member of the un-alived but non-dead community.
Now, there’s a talent. You can’t get AI to do that.