By Dave B.
The foreign-language Vampire Cleanup Department (2017, currently on Amazon Prime), follows the exploits of a secret Hong Kong agency devoted to the elimination of vampires. The protagonist, Tim, is a reluctant hero who discovers that he’s immune to vampire conversion (he's basically Blade, but without strength, speed, or skills). On his first mission, he encounters Summer, a female vampire, who displays some unexpected human characteristics. Tim and the rest of the Department must use ancient magic and weapons to defeat Summer’s master and prevent him from turning Hong Kong into a vast feeding ground for the undead.
Vampire Cleanup Department is one of those movies that gradually gets better as it progresses. That isn’t necessarily saying a lot because its first 30 minutes are horrible. It’s campy without being fun and it’s duller than hell. Part of the problem is that the movie has the worst subtitle translation that I’ve ever seen. EVER. So the first part of the movie is nearly incomprehensible. Jokes that may have been relatively humorous fall completely flat, not because of cultural context, but because its impossible to divine any context whatsoever from the subtitled dialogue. The bland action sequences peppered throughout certainly aren’t a selling point for the movie either.
But Vampire Cleanup Department does improve. Although the subtitles don’t get any better, you get accustomed to them. And as the story focuses less on humor and more on a budding romance, there’s less dialogue (because vampires can’t speak) and more of the film is devoted to conveying emotion, which it does fairly effectively. Lin Min-Chen’s performance as Summer is…well…especially cute, as she evolves from being a bloodthirsty vampire, bunny-hopping all over the place (yes, these vampires can’t walk; they hop like bunnies with their arms sticking straight out in one of the quirky elements of the movie that actually works), into a near-human capable of conveying complex emotions without saying a word.
Vampire Cleanup Department never elevates itself into the realm of “good”, but its reaching the status of “moderately entertaining” is quite an accomplishment considering how poorly it started out. Because of how ridiculously terrible the subtitles are, I can’t recommend this movie to anyone who isn’t proficient in Cantonese, Mandarin, or some related dialect. But if you’re looking for a unique, unconventionally charming entry into the vampire genre, and you don’t mind reading subtitles that seem as if they are written by a slightly slow, very dyslexic two-year old, then there are worse ways that you could spend 90 or so minutes.
I have no clue what I'm doing, but I'll keep doing whatever it is to the best of my ability.