Welcome to Cult Corner where we dive through the bargain bins to determine if a movie is trash or treasure. Today’s pick…Joe Livingston’s Robo Vampire.
What a terrible movie. What a strange, terrible, beautiful movie. Robo Vampire is one of the weirdest things I’ve seen in quite a while and despite the fact that it can barely even qualify as a “movie” I think I kind of love it. Robo Vampire follows narcotics agent Tom Wilde as he is transformed into a cheap knockoff of Robocop. One look at the poster and you can see they’re not even trying to hide it. Add in a captured undercover agent that needs to be rescued, a drug cartel, a good helping of martial arts, and some of the weirdest vampires ever put to film and you’ve got Robo Vampire.
This is a foreign film from the 80s and that’s basically what you can look forward to. It’s insanely low budget and amateurish in the way that it looks, sounds, and flows. The editing is absolutely terrible, creating many moments of complete confusion and really choppy pacing. They reuse shots fairly often, occasionally even showing things back to back so it looks like the movie is skipping. The lighting shifts from serviceable to completely nonexistent. It’s really hard to see what’s happening in a number of spots. On top of that, there’s the dubbing. This is exactly the kind of dubbing you think of when you think of these kinds of films. It’s awful. The words barely ever match what the actors’ mouths are doing and I seriously wonder if they even tried. The English voice actors all sound like they don’t want to be there. They’re totally apathetic to everything that’s going on and given some of the ridiculous things they have to say I can’t blame them.
The only area where this film legitimately does something well is the fight scenes. While they’re not the most impressive in terms of choreography or martial arts they’re at least competently put together. The martial artists all know what they’re doing and on top of that the movie really mixes things up by implementing some more Rambo-style action here and there. Whether it’s people punching and kicking each other in the face or shooting machine guns in the jungle it’s always entertaining.
The visual effects that are implemented are abysmal. The Robo-knockoff looks like a bad cosplay that somebody made with whatever they had lying around and some silver spray paint the night before a convention. Don’t be fooled by the total ripoff on the poster, because while that is clearly just a stolen or traced image of the actual Robocop, he looks nothing like that in the film.
There’s a small amount of gore peppered throughout the film and it’s awful as well. In a couple of scenes I think a character is supposed to scratching another’s face, but you can clearly see that all they’re doing is wiping fake blood that’s already on their fingers to make it sort of look like someone is being scratched. They never do any real makeup effects for the gore and the only makeup that exists at all is the zombified look of the vampires, but we’ll get to those in a minute. The film looks cheap, and hilariously so. Honestly, though, this stuff only makes it better.
In spite of how completely terrible almost everything is, this movie is just…so…weird. The dialogue is hilariously atrocious and I have to think that most of it was mistranslated or at least poorly translated. People often say things that while completely expository are still awkward and confusing. My favorite line comes when one character spies on a girl bathing in a river and uses “you should bathe more often” as his pickup line to seduce her. What’s even better is that it works. There’s also a moment where a couple who are making out are interrupted by the Robo-Vampire and the girl casually tells him that he can kill them, but to please wait until after they screw. Again, I can chalk some of this up to poor translation, but there’s plenty of weirdness and random happenings peppered throughout the movie aside from the dialogue, like when an arm wrestling match goes wrong and the loser pulls out a machete, or when we see a woman smuggling drugs inside of a dead cow. It’s not even beef, it’s just a dead cow lying on the ground bleeding out with its’ guts falling out. I have no idea what that was even about.
The vampires themselves take the weirdness cake hands down, though. I’m not too familiar with the Chinese version of the creature, but these things are hilarious. Why do they look like zombies? Why are their arms constantly stretched out like Frankenstein’s Monster? Why do they hop as their only form of movement? I’m serious, they hop like bunnies as their only way to move anywhere. Why do they shoot acidic fog out of their sleeves? Why do they sometimes shoot fireworks? Why does one of them randomly have a gorilla face? I don’t know, but I love it.
Robo Vampire is one of the worst and weirdest movies I’ve seen in quite a while and it’s great. They basically fail at everything they set out to do. The plot is a nonsensical version of Robocop with martial arts and vampires and often times I had absolutely no idea what was going on. The film looks and sounds absolutely atrocious and the voice actors are completely phoning it in. None of these faults matter though, because it’s a hell of an entertaining watch. If you enjoy getting together with some friends and riffing on something gloriously awful, this is a movie you need to see.
Here at Cult Corner we cover the weird and obscure. Given the low budget that these movies often have we feel the need to recognize that entertainment value and quality aren’t always synonymous. That’s why we have opted for the “trash or treasure” approach in lieu of a typical rating system. After all, Troll 2 is incredibly entertaining but it’s no 8 out of 10.