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Phil Must Die!
A review of "Robo Vampire"
by Rich Bruso
July 2002

Foreign films. Usually, these words bring to mind star-studded film festivals in exotic locations, limited theater releases attended by the intellectual elite of the community, and long discussions on the meaning of love, or the meaning of meaning, or the purpose of reason, or similar topics. There are people who feel any foreign film is infinitely more meaningful than what Hollywood could possibly produce. Thankfully, once in a while a foreign film proves that Americans aren't the only ones who can produce bad, rotten, terrible, horrible, painful to watch, spit-to-clean-the-taste-out-of-my-mouth, awful movies. This time, it was a fine feature entitled, "Robo Vampire" that restored my faith in the global film industry.

I doubt this movie featured in any film festival. In fact, I would be surprised if this movie was ever aired in any theater whatsoever. Phil picked this movie out, which shouldn't surprise me anymore. Phil seems to be able to come up with just the right movie for any occasion, and then figure out what its opposite would be and bring that one instead. Say, for example, you were looking for an entertaining action movie to watch with friends. Phil would bring a copy of "The Pointmen", starring International Superstar Christopher Lambert. Of course, that movie deserves its own review. Or eulogy.

Anyway, back to "Robo Vampire." We'll skip any description of the cover art for the DVD, other than to say the producers of "Robocop" should sue. The movie begins with total darkness. The muted noises of someone stealthily approaching a building can be heard. Even without a picture, you can tell this movie is badly dubbed. Suddenly a fight breaks out. Unfortunately, the video is still pitch black. Wiggling the wires doesn't seem to help, so I pull the disc out and clean it in the kitchen sink. In retrospect, I should have used a sandblaster, or perhaps a shotgun. After drying the disc, I attempt to play the movie once again. This time the viewing audience is treated to the glory of someone stealthily approaching a building, accompanied by the sounds of someone on a separate soundstage pretending to stealthily approach a building. It turns out the dubbing isn't bad, it's downright criminal.

In the opening sequences, we are introduced to the bad guys. At least, I think they were bad. The only thing I'm sure of is these guys were smuggling some generic white drug substance. We are also introduced to the vampires. Now, I'm not sure if everyone in China shares this view, but the producers of this film seem to think that vampires get around by hopping like bunnies. Oh, and they hold their arms straight out in the classic sleepwalker pose. And they manage to jump without bending their knees. Disturbing, yes, but not very terror inspiring. With bad guys like these, we'd need a very slow hero, mentally and physically. Luckily, this is the only point the producers managed to get right.

On to the good guys. Again, we're not exactly sure why they are labeled good, aside from the fact they fight the bad guys. Anyway, during an absolutely horrid fight sequence one of the, um, good guys gets killed. Some lab guy convinces the boss to allow some sort of robotic implant surgery on poor Mr. Dead Dude. The resulting character looks a bit like I would picture the "Jiffy Pop" man would look. I am convinced that focusing some sort of heat ray on him would result in an explosion of tasty, lightly buttered popcorn. His armor appears to be made up entirely of leftover pie tins and aluminum foil. In the movie, I believe he achieved a top speed somewhere in the neighborhood of one foot per second while running downhill. The perfect hero for a high-speed chase scene. And, in spite of the title, at no time does he become a vampire.

Somewhere along the line, a priest with a daughter is introduced. As often happens in these movies, the daughter is kidnapped to force the father into cooperating with the, err, bad guys, I guess. Also, the vampires appear to be controlled by some mad genius-type character. In a badly planned move, the wife of one of the vampires decides to kill the mad genius. Well, she was his wife before he was converted into a vampire. At least, I think she was. The plot seemed thinner than usual at this point. The general feel was that this woman was related to one of the producers of the film and blackmailed him into letting her into the movie.

Back to the main storyline. Wait, we don't have one. Okay, back to the priest's daughter storyline. We see her slapped around, yelled at, then subjected to the (please shoot me) Chinese water torture, which in this case involves her being loosely tied to a chair below a water faucet some insane plumber decided to install in the ceiling.

Somehow the good guys get roped into trying to rescue this woman. During the fight scenes, we see bad vampires trying to roll on the ground while keeping their arms extended, several shots of the robotic hero fighting in a rusty, tin woodsman-like kung fu, and dozens of extras from the producer's hometown running around screaming in badly dubbed voices. At around an hour and fifteen minutes into the movie, another female character is introduced. She is possibly the producer's new girlfriend, though she could easily be his cousin visiting from out of town. Around this time the woman who was tied up appears in the fight, despite the complete lack of a rescue. Then we are treated to the absolute best scene in the movie. One of the vampires, in full retreat, is hopping along a road. About ten feet (approximately 4 hours) behind him lopes our hero, the Reynold's Wrap man. After a couple of minutes of this exciting chase scene (covering about 15 feet of ground), the vampire decides that a forward roll will allow him to escape VaguelyRoboLikePersonDude. Luckily, this is when our hero remembers he has a gun.

I won't give away the exciting conclusion to this movie, mostly because I left the room. I'm told it was no more exciting than the rest of the movie, though I believe the producer's aunt and uncle were allowed on the set for some screen time. Maybe someday I will forget this movie, though I doubt it will be anytime soon. I'll conclude by claiming I know nothing about Phil's beating next week with what appeared to be a sharpened DVD case. I'm sure I won't even be in town that day.

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