Feeling confident about the market potential in hopping vampires, that featuring the majority of their own footage and actors and only little of the Thai source movie starring Sorapong Chatri edited in their trademark cut and paste product plus the appearance of the flimsy looking robot warrior from Robo Vampire, Filmark's Tomas Tang delivered The Vampire Is Alive (aka Counter Destroyer) to the market (and probably himself, as clearly a giddy fan of this mashed together content).
To briefly setup the IFD and Filmark tactics, at IFD Joseph Lai and company eventually changed business tactics from ninjas to kickboxers, masked superheroes etc while prior business partner Tomas Tang at Filmark at this time thought putting the unusual sight of the hopping vampire into the international community was THE in thing to do. Hence glorious, perfect messes such as Robo Vampire and The Vampire Is Alive being created. Shooting quite a bit of footage themselves to be inserted alongside a Thai movie นักฆ่าขนตางอน starring Sorapong Chatri (1*) , the story of two girls setting up in a house to write a screenplay while straaaaaange, not too scary things starts happening around them is contrasted against a female private investigator in the Thai movie trying to bring villainous movie producer Jackson to justice (original poster for the Thai movie here). Ninjas and the robot warrior from Robo Vampire eventually join the frey too!
Make no mistake about movie the quality here. It's bad. It's low but make no mistake about another, very crucial thing. Tomas Tang and his Filmark believe in their product and are as much businessmen as they are genre-fans. This is clear several decades later. And to boot, showcasing mostly their own footage against a selective amount of the scenes from นักฆ่าขนตางอน connects to this as well as the days when Joseph Lai and Tomas Tang produced actual movies. Perhaps this showcase of more and more of Filmark's own direction led to 1989's full feature Satanic Crystals being produced as well. Sans an insane amount of hopping vampires though. As for The Vampire Is Alive, the technical direction is sufficient with haunted house tactics showcased decently but it's never truly scary because of the lack of acting and charisma in the Western leads Filmark found (on the street probably). It scores high on the fun-meter however when staging somewhat poor to decent Mr.Vampire-esque and A Nightmare On Elm-Street energy (especially lighting the settings in blue elevates this, and when showcased in scope) and especially when the connection to the Thai movie means we get a contrasting genre-vehicle here. Hopping vampires, horror and what was probably a hunt for gangsters in the original but now hunt for evil movie producers fits in one. A Hong Kong crew could deliver this plate and Tomas Tang clearly felt it was worth to deliver something so Asian to foreign buyers. Probably a ballsy move that regardless tickled him first and when you provide energetic fun that can also translate to sales. Being a businessman means risks too.
While the Thai movie doesn't light up the screen in fun as it's somewhat dated but sufficient action fodder starring Sorapong Chatri as a cop working alongside the female private investigator (who flat our murders in her pursuit of Jackson, with crossbows, poison etc), it's fun seeing Filmark connect the movies to create the illusion of dialogue between Chatri and the Western leads but it's an odd and fun juxtaposition because big reactions by characters when being addressed by the Filmark footage clearly meant it was used in a different context before. The footage never overstays its welcome though and there's always a constant reminder of Filmark's joyous nonsense such as Sun Chien as the once driver now vampire beast chasing the girls, ninja vs limber hopping vampires and a wacky Taoist priest (To Siu-Ming) getting his stuck in a bucket because he's wacky and crap.
And when deciding to, because they liked it so much and its flimsy design, to all of a sudden introduce the robot warrior from Robo Vampire (but not the same, dead cop-character inhabiting him), you know for sure what you've known since the early frames. I.e. that The Vampire Is Alive lets loose, lets itself go in the most fun ways possibly and it might've been a flop on the buyer's market for Filmark but god damn it, I'm sure Tomas Tang and crew were proud and could laugh at and with their own work. Rightly so. Hopefully enthusiasm did sell however.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson
(1) Thanks to Jesus Pérez Molina for identifying the movie and check out his blog here.