Shaolin Vs. Evil Dead (2004) 1 brain1 brainhalf brain
(Hong Kong)

I remember the first time I saw a movie that didn't have an ending. I was a little upset by all the unresolved plot points, but the movie had been so good otherwise that I still liked it. That movie was The Empire Strikes Back. I watched The Empire Strikes Back. I liked The Empire Strikes Back. This movie, dear readers, is no The Empire Strikes Back. OK, it wasn't that bad. But when you're watching a film called Shaolin Vs. Evil Dead, you don't expect plot points that will take two movies to resolve. As far as I can tell, part 2 has not yet been made.

Things occur in the movie that probably make a lot more sense if you have the right cultural background, but Western viewers may be somewhat mystified on occasion. The Eastern mythos involving the afterlife, spirits, and undead of various types is different enough that it takes a little bit to catch on. The film opens with Taoist priest Pak (Gordon Liu) and his students Yat (Jacky Woo) and Tien (Shi Xiao-hu) leading a line of hopping vampires back to their resting places. I haven't seen much of the hopping vampire genre (this is apparently a common theme), but when Pak tells Yat and Tien why they hop, I get the sense that this movie is meant to be a horror comedy. Since it has "Evil Dead" in the title, this is probably not a bad guess.

When they stop for dinner in an inn, they find that they have somehow stumbled into the underworld. They're attacked by zombies, and Pak fights them by sucking their souls into eggs, which he plans to bury later so that the souls reincarnate. The fight is going badly, however, until a dark Taoist priest, Hak (Terry Fan), and his student Moon (Shannon Yoh) show up. Hak has no scruples about simply destroying the souls of the zombies, as opposed to trying to capture them, and the fight goes much more easily for him, but Pak is horrified that Hak has such little disregard for the souls of the undead.

It turns out that Pak and Hak have a long rivalry, which at some point in the past turned to dislike, at least on Hak's part. This doesn't keep Yat and Moon from making eyes at each other, although each is loyal to his or her master. Pak and Hak continue to have conflict over treatment of the undead. The more Pak remonstrates Hak, the darker Hak becomes, until finally Hak unwittingly unleashes some superpowerful undead guy that goes on a killing rampage.

The humor in the movie is goofy, but sometimes it falls a little flat. The fight scenes are fun to watch, though, and some of the Taoist magic, especially the game of phantom chess played between Hak and Pak, is really cool. Having said that, the movie also drags at some points, and then there's the whole fact that it's unfinished. If you know in advance that this is the case and are willing to accept that, then I would give it a go.