A throwback to Hong Kong horror films circa 1990, Tsui Hark's Vampire Hunters is receiving a limited release immediately prior to its home-video appearance. Like John Carpenter, Tsui seems bent on recycling his past hits until he strikes box-office gold again, even if it means making movies that invite derision.

Set in rural China during the 1600s, Vampire Hunters involves four martial-arts experts who set out to destroy the Vampire King after the apparent death of their master Mao (Ji Chun Hua). Their search leads them to a palace where Sasa (Anya) is about to wed Young Jiang (Wang Zhen Lin). Mistaken for servants, the friends are put to work by Kow (Lee Lik Chee), the butler. That night, Sasa's groom dies from a snakebite.

The impetuous Thunder (Michael Chow) vows to protect Sasa, despite the suspicions of her father-in-law Jiang (Yu Rong Guang, the hero of Iron Monkey). Thunder doesn't realize that Sasa's brother Dragon (Horace Lee Wai Shing) has married her off in an attempt to find Jiang's secret cache of gold.

Dragon's robbers attack the palace, but are dragged to their doom by vampires. Dragon and Kow search the palace alone, stumbling across a storeroom containing dozens of Jiang corpses that have been mummified in wax. Dragon hires a zombie wrangler (Chan Koon Tai) to bring the corpses to life, hoping to create a diversion while he flees with the gold. Instead, the zombies run amok, attracting the attention of the Vampire King.

Joined by the resurrected Mao, the martial-arts masters battle the zombies while Jiang takes on Dragon and Kow. When Sasa is bitten, Thunder and his friends must find a way to defeat the invincible Vampire King before she turns into a vampire herself.

There are few lulls in Vampire Hunters, and if you've never seen a hopping vampire movie, this is probably the easiest one to find. But it's quite a comedown for the man behind such exquisite films as Peking Opera Blues and A Chinese Ghost Story. Despite a few good fights, the stunts are indifferently executed. Special effects are more ambitious than effective. The film's overall look is slapdash, with three cinematographers providing footage that often doesn't match. The silliest aspect of the film is the Vampire King. A goofy mannequin with a Halloween mask, he's funny rather than frightening. Sadly, the rest of the film lacks the humor that's usually been one of Tsui Hark's strong suits. After seeing Vampire Hunters, you may wonder how the horror genre ever got so popular in Hong Kong.

--Daniel Eagan