Vampire Cleanup Department
A delightfully campy romp destined for cult status – we just wish it had more vampires
Part Buffy, a little Ghostbusters, a dash of Harry Potter, and all Hong Kong midnight-movie weirdness, Yan Pak-wing and Chiu Sin-hang’s Vampire Cleanup Department is a hammy, campy romp buoyed by the charms of its lead, the baby-faced Babyjohn Choi, and a large cast of funny and game supporting players.
Despite its comedy-horror premise – the city’s street sweepers have actually been working night shifts as vampire slayers for centuries – the film is probably too tame to ever gain real cult status, especially since a large chunk of its running time focuses on the cute but tepid fledging romance between new recruit Tim (Choi) and a beautiful, mute vamp named Summer (Min Chen Lin), who's brought back to quasi-human form by a chance underwater encounter.
Yan and Chiu embrace conventional plot tropes, but their film is elevated beyond hacky genre fare thanks to its rain-soaked, grungy atmosphere and some clever details: the vampires inexplicably hop like bunnies, holding their arms out stiffly like Lugosi’s Dracula; Summer accidentally swallows Tim’s mobile and uses Siri to “talk” to him through her glowing stomach. (Also: underwater vampires!)
The subtitles on the print on which we viewed Vampire Cleanup Department (at the UK premiere at EIFF 2017) are atrocious, but this just adds to the fun, as do the vamp horror effects, which hit the right note between retro-cheesy and scary. Ultimately, though, we simply don’t get enough vampire action in Vampire Cleanup Department. It’s as though the titular crew did most of its work before the cameras starting rolling.