12th May2021

‘Chinese Speaking Vampires’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Sean Eden Yi, June Lee, Brandon Lamberty, Davy Williams, Jerimiyah Dunbar, Keely Dervin, Chris Cleveland, Crystal J. Huang, Jeff McDonald, Sophia Jiang, Jon W Harris, Daniela Brown, Richard Gavigan, Aaron Bray, Anthony Lien, Rezzan Denizmen | Written by Davy Williams | Directed by Randy Kent

Aspiring actor Tony, played by the films writer Davy Williams, is desperate for a role in a Chinese production currently casting in LA. Turned down at his initial audition, Tony is told he must learn Mandarin in a month if he’s to be invited back to re-audition. With no other choice Tony signs up for classes with Gengji Ma. Only Ma is not your typical teacher, he is the last of an ancient race of Chinese vampires who were wiped out by the Japanese – a race of vampires who not only turned their victims into vampires but also turned them into Mandarin speakers!

In case you’re not aware given the title, Chinese Speaking Vampires is a martial arts horror comedy – emphasis more on the comedy – that has its heart in the right place but doesn’t always get it right. In fact this is a film of two halves – one an unfunny comedy and the other a pretty fun non-stop martial arts flick that reminded me very much of the cheesy direct-to-VHS Far East flicks I grew up watching as a kid. They didn’t make such sense but the fight scenes were good and that’s all I needed… Which can also be said of this film!

The idea that vampires bestow the secrets of China upon their victims, making them into Mandarin speakers, losing their grasp of English altogether, is actually rather a clever concept; turning the typical tropes of the genre on their head. Especially considering that this type of “martial arts” film would typically feature Chinese-speaking actors, in an English production, trying to speak English. Here the roles are reversed and the English cast all speak Mandarin, fluently may I add, and perform the kind of martial arts you don’t typically see from English-speaking “actors”.

It’s just unfortunate that we have to sit through the first half of the film to get to the good stuff. The whole “Hollywood” scene portion of the film, as Tony goes to his audition, parties with his buddies, before hitting Ma’s Chinese lessons is amateur-hour stuff. If it wasn’t for the charismatic performance of writer Davy Williams I’m not sure I would’ve stuck with Chinese Speaking Vampires.

Fortunately when the film switches gears its one hell of a fun ride, with prolonged martial arts fights between Tony and his friends, Ma and his “family”, and a bunch of religious vampire-hunting fanatics. Which are, honestly, the weakest part of the film – that crew of vampire hunters are supposed to provides the films comedy but they’re just not funny. In the slightest. In fact every time they appear on screen it, for me, brought down the tone of the movie and detracted from the fun I was having!

If we’d had more of the films second half this would have been an instant recommend. For now I’ll just say that it the idea of a martial arts version of The Room sounds appealing, then Chinese Speaking Vampires might just be for you.

**½  2.5/5

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