can you not watch a movie with a title like that?
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.
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!
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.
Shiang (Donnie Yen) is toasting some marshmallows with five of his pretty
teenage students after they've attended some 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.
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!
Shiang for the moment, who is under constant police surveillance, we
are introduced to a couple doing the wild thing
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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..
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!"
is enough, figure our heroes, and hop on the next plane to Cambodia.
Ah, festive 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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 (?).
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
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
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.
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!
and White have fought the Moon Monster all the way back to the village,
and the berserk Monster is more than a 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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.
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.