The Bad Movie Report

Holy Virgin vs.

the Evil Dead


How can you not watch a movie with a title like that?

Folks familiar with the ebb and flow of Hong Kong films would, at first blush (heh heh) be tempted to lump this movie in with the flood of Category III (read: NC-17) films that marked the end of the protectorate's cinematic renaissance that began with John Woo's A Better Tomorrow and Tsui Hark's Zu, Warriors of the Mountain. Iterations of balletic gun-and-swordplay eventually gave way, as the approaching specter of mainland China loomed, to the more blatantly exploitative films like Raped by an Angel, Naked Killer and Human Sausages.

But no, Holy Virgin vs. the Evil Dead comes to us toward the last quarter of that renaissance, 1990. And the first thing that lets you know what is about to come is the title sequence at the beginning, which is a combination of Al Adamson "here are some images from our upcoming feature" graphics and a James Bond dancing girl. In fact, were this reviewed by Oh the Humanity!, it would be one of the few movies to which they could answer "Naked Girl Dancing During Credits?" with a resounding yes!

Then, just to make sure we didn't miss the implications, we are treated to a lady skinny-dipping in her pool. We have no idea who she is, or what she has to do with the movie, but since she likes to lounge around nude, she might not be the Holy Virgin of the title.

Mr. Shiang (Donnie Yen) is toasting some marshmallows with five of his pretty teenage students after they've attended some Next on FOX:  When Moon Monsters Attack!festival or other. Bizarrely, the moon turns blood red and all of Shiang's students are attacked and killed (after being stripped to various degrees) by a tall, long-haired assailant with glowing green eyes. Though Shiang battles valiantly to protect his charges, the killer is possessed of superhuman strength. When Shiang regains consciousness, he is surrounded by dead bodies.

Naturally, the police assume that Shiang is the murderer, or, as they like to say, "the sexual maniac". Shiang's pal, Chiou, a cheap private eye, bails out the scholar (by showing up with a knapsack full of loose change!); the two set out to find the true killer. Complicating matters is the fact that the woman skinny-dipping in the first scene is Shamen, Shiang's ex-wife... and she's sleeping with Sgt. Chen, the main detective on the case!

Leaving Shiang for the moment, who is under constant police surveillance, we are introduced to a couple doing the wild PMS:  Artist's Representationthing in a car. Since we have not seen them up until this point in the movie, Death must be just around the corner. What did I tell you? The moon turns red, the woman develops a nasty case of green eye, and proceeds to chow down on her boyfriend's throat. She then travels to a near-abandoned building, where our old pal, the true Sexual Maniac, is meditating before the idol of some hermaphroditic god. After taking the opportunity to rip off the possessed girl's clothes, his eyes glow, throat gets ripped out, etc., etc.

The next day, Chiou manages to sneak past the police into the murder scene and get a picture of the idol. He and Shiang are advised to consult with the aged Director Chor at the local university. Once there, it's bad news, good news: the bad news is that Chor has gone to his reward. The good news is, his daughter, Yi Yan, has taken over his position and is every bit as knowledgeable. She is also cute as the dickens.

Oh, honey, do you HAVE to ASK?Yi Yan is not terribly helpful until Chiou shows her the picture of the idol, at which point she tells the two about a clan of the wilds of Cambodia, the High Wind Tribe, with whom her father was so friendly they gave him one of their sacred books. This book not only has a picture of the idol, the God of All Mothers, but also foretells the coming of the Moon Monster, an evil spirit whose predations are signaled by the moon turning red.

This Cambodian angle is interesting to Chiou, as he overheard at the crime scene that the building the Sexual Maniac/Moon Monster was squatting in is owned by a Cambodian named Ma Tien. Ma Tien is, at the time, giving the Moon Monster hell for killing the woman in his building, and thus dragging his name into the proceedings. Time to speed things up, he tells the Moon Monster; what they need is a woman "born in Yin timing". To find her, Ma Tien gives the Moon Monster a seashell that will ooze blood when she is near.

Wandering around town waiting for a seashell to start bleeding might seem like an awfully unsure means of locating someone, but then, none of us are Cambodian sorcerers. In fact, Moon Monster soon finds himself with a handful of blood outside a house - as luck would have it, it's Shamen's house, and Yi Yan has dropped by to try to convince Sgt. Chen of Shiang's innocence, and the existence of the Moon Monster. Chen is predictably skeptical - until the Moon Monster flies across the pool to grab Shamen! Chen empties his revolver into the long-haired kidnapper, then tries his martial arts, with no more luck "Who ordered haggis?"than Shiang had. It's not until the Moon Monster falls in a pool and Yi Yan drops a power line into the water, making Moon Monster soup, that the supernatural dynamo is stopped.

Ah, but if you know your movie villains (and we do) he isn't so much stopped as paused. The Moon Monster rises from the dead that night and eviscerates the unfortunate morgue attendant. Two policemen enter, and for once, we see two cops do the sensible thing when confronted with a naked dead man with green lightning coming out of his eyes and a fistful of intestines: they run like hell..

Great.  They killed the cutie.  Just frickin' great.Meantime, Shiang visits Yi Yan at the library, interrupting her late night studies with some fast food. Too bad Shiang hasn't figured out that any female he gets close to will die. Smarting from the Jacuzzi of Death incident, the Moon Monster comes to the library, everything goes red and Yi Yan is hit in the face with some sort of cartoon. Later we are told "Her head still hasn't been found!"

Enough is enough, figure our heroes, and hop on the next plane to Cambodia. Ah, festive Princess White ponders which butt to kick next.Cambodia! Where the High Wind tribe prepares to see if the visiting Prince Wolf is worthy of their Princess White. Finally (!) here is our Holy Virgin. Wolf is game enough - this is one of those he-must-defeat-her-in-fair-combat-to-marry-her deals - but White is one of those martial artists who can fly around in-between boots up the opponent's butt. Rueful, bruised and respectful, Wolf withdraws to his kingdom, doubtless to practice like a sumbitch.

Almost immediately, a fierce windstorm whips up. White's father, the Chief, informs her that this is indicative of the return of the Moon Monster (it must be hard to sneak up on someone when you're the Moon Monster...). He summarily gives her the village's Magic Sword™, and sends her down the mountain to kill it.

While Shiang, Chen and Chiou proceed to scope out Ma Tien's opulent villa, Shamen investigates as only a woman can - by shopping. Finding a mask of the God of All Mothers in a shop, she convinces the merchant to tell her about the local legend. He doesn't even get as far as 'In the beginning' before a figure wearing a Buddha mask stabs him in the back. Shamen finds herself beset at all sides by assailants wearing various mythological masks, and proves herself no slouch in the bootay-kicking department. The bad guys cheat, however, and pull guns, taking her hostage.

To the left...the left!  OOOOH! THAT SPOT!  RIGHT THERE!Speaking of women dispensing generous amounts of whoop-ass, White is having a hell of a set-to with the Moon Monster in some picturesque ruins. The Magic Sword™ lives up to its name, letting loose with the occasional lightning bolt and generally behaving like a cattle prod when it hits the Moon Monster. After shocking him into a pit, White tosses in a lit bundle of dynamite. Take that, Sexual Maniac!

The three amigos, meantime, see Shamen being escorted into Ma Tien Central. Chen is all for rushing in with his one little automatic pistol, but Shiang, seeing a whole bunch of hirelings carrying M-16s, urges him to wait for Ma Tien's next move. Good thing that cool heads prevail, because on their return trip to the hotel, the three find White who has passed out on the side of the road from her wounds.

All these martial artists usually need is a few hour's sleep to get better, so White is soon joining forces with our HK heroes to take down Ma Tien. The Moon Monster is no longer a problem, White assures them. Of course, just as soon as she makes this assertion, Moon Monster digs himself out of the rubble.

Sgt. Chen goes to Tien's villa alone to trade the holy book of the High Wind Tribe for Shamen's release. The others sneak in"Both this girl and this book are vital to me." Tell us about  it, ya perv. under this distraction, smacking down guards as they go (which pretty much what Chen wanted in the first place, wasn't it?). Why, oh why does anyone ever trust white suit-wearing villains? Ma Tien gratefully accepts the book, then informs the dismayed policeman that he still has need of Shamen. Then, for punctuation (and because we haven't seen any breasts in a half an hour) the sorcerer rips off her halter top (?).

This is as good a time as any for our other heroes to get spotted by the guards, and machine gun fire to erupt all around. Our heroes make typically short work of the hirelings, and almost rescue Shamen from the escaping Ma Tien when the Moon Monster shows up, flying low and ripping out a big dang chunk of Chen's belly. White and her magic sword succeed in turning away the Moon Monster, but everyone withdraws to get Chen to a doctor.

Shiang, Chiou and White must then leave Chen behind, and complete the journey to the High Wind Tribe's village, only to find everyone up at the holy place, where Ma Tien, disguised as the God of All Mothers, holds the tribe in his thrall. Commanding them to follow his "son", the Moon Monster, Ma Tien then announces it is time for that all-important 'woman born in Yin timing.' The hypnotized Shamen immediately drops her clothes... as do the eighteen other women behind her! ¡Ay Chihuahua!

whoa.The naked Shamen drops to her knees before the Moon Monster, and things look like they might go quite pornographic, but the Chief, who is strung up on the altar, breaks the mood by shouting, "Bastard!" Incensed, the Moon Monster does the manual disembowelment thing on him, prompting White to fly in and start whoompin' ass. Ma Tien's henchmen (the ones who survived the massacre at the villa.... apparently a lot of them did!) open fire, prompting the tribesmen and all eighteen naked women (yes, I counted them) to stampede. Luckily, Shiang and Chiou find the two Guns That Do Not Run Out Of Ammunition Until It Is Dramatically Appropriate, by which we mean when the miraculously recovered Chen arrives with what appears to be a belt-fed M-60 machine gun.

Chen is really, really good with that machine gun, too. He manages to gun down all the lackies surrounding the still-naked Shamen without one bullet ever coming close to her - and he never takes his finger off the trigger! Chiou winds up getting killed while reloading, but what the hell - he was the comic relief. Ma Tien and Sgt. Chen finally go at it hand-to-hand, and the wounded cop is about to be impaled by Tien's spear when Shamen, clad in a slinky black gown - who knows where the hell she found it - crops up with an M-16 and ventilates Ma Tien thoroughly. She loved that halter top!

Shiang and White have fought the Moon Monster all the way back to the village, and the berserk Monster is more than a Moon Monster tries REALLY HARD to keep from laughing.match for both of them, until a lunar eclipse blots out the red moon. Shiang realizes that the not-very-cryptic final passage of the holy book instructs them to slam the magic sword through the head of the Moon Monster during this eclipse. White manages this with Shiang's help, and the Moon Monster dies a gooey, echoing, bladder-inflating death, then vanishes in a welter of laser effects left over from Lifeforce.

The next day, the remaining four indulge in some Scooby-Doo post-mystery banter, until a man in a boat passing under them calls out to them. Who is that? they wonder. Who is that man? It's the Moon Monster! He's not dead after all! Crap! The end.

This may sound like the answer to every bad movie fan's dream, combining as it does kung fu, gun fu, and as Joe Bob Briggs would say, breast fu. You could, indeed, do a lot worse than Holy Virgin vs. the Evil Dead. Unfortunately, you could also do a lot better.

Though I said earlier this movies smacks of the mid-90's Category III sleazefests, its true companions are firstly: the Shaw Brothers mid-80s Seeding of a Ghost. Infamous and near-legendary, Seeding married horror, gooiness, and gratuitous nudity. Secondly, the Golden Harvest Seventh Curse, which combined action and horror to much better effect (We'll visit the delights of Seventh Curse one of these days... it's one of my favorites). The gunplay scenes in Holy Virgin aren't too exciting - nobody runs right into the line of fire like a bunch of HK action film henchmen. Most of the fight scenes are well-done, but short, and as it is a Donnie Yen film, are slightly speeded-up, a practice I abhor - it serves only to cheapen the superb athleticism of the actors.

In fact, the story is so slight, that I highly suspect an AIP-style genesis here: somebody thought of the title before they had a story. The plot glosses over any number of logical problems, and throws a lot of characters at us; although the death of Yi Yan is dramatically apt, the jettisoning of Sgt. Chen's female partner - she delivers the Dirty Harry Speech and quits - has all the feel of someone lightening the load so we can finally introduce another character and get on to the Cambodian story arc that leads up to our title bout.

At the auditions for SiddhartaNor do any of these characters inspire much empathy. Shiang is portrayed in a fairly hangdog manner. Admittedly, he is going through a world of sh*t, but it doesn't make for a very dynamic protagonist. Chen's bedding the ex-wife of his chief suspect seems a blatant violation of procedure and ethics. Chiou is called upon simply to make the occasional wacky statement that defies translation. And White is only in the last half of the movie. The character we wind up closest to is Shamen, not because the character is any less underwritten than the others, but because she is naked so much of the time. Brave actress. Quite pretty, too.

I'm sorry, my mind was wondering for a while there. Where was I? Oh yeah. Although the action elements are all there, the story is so rudimentary that there is no real canvas for those brush strokes to join and make a whole picture. But I am haunted by a old memory: myself and my best friend plopping into my family's station wagon and going to the Skyway Twin Drive-in Theater on Wednesday night (when admission was $1.00 per person) to see stuff like Student Teachers and, um, something with Nurses or Cheerleaders in the title. We did not sit through those for the story or characters. We watched them for the nekkid chicks. A flick like Holy Virgin vs. the Evil Dead would have seemed liked Manna directly from the Main Office. Not only would we have gotten our boob shots, but some decent gunplay, gore and fight scenes in-between.

Come to think of it, a double bill with this and something like the Jean Rollin (retitled) Caged Virgins would have kicked ass down at the Skyway Twin. Had it been made and imported fifteen years earlier, it could have been the Ultimate Drive-In Movie.



Kinda ordinary HK Drive-In Fare. Great Title, though.

- August 29, 1999