Twins Effect (released as ‘Vampire Effect’ in the US) (2003) – Director: Donnie Yen, Dante Lam
Running Length: 102 minutes
Starring: Ekin Cheng / Charlene Choi / Gillian Chung
Genre: Martial Arts / Comedy / Horror
‘Twins Effect’ is the debut feature film to showcase Charlene Choi and Gillian Chung, better known as the cantopop duo ‘Twins’ in their native Hong Kong. And what an odd film for a pop duo to star in! The first 15 minutes of ‘Twins Effect’ features a heavy dose of horror, plenty of standard but enjoyable kung-fu action, and appears to set the tone of the movie as quite straight-faced. However, come the second scene (and introduction of Choi’s character Helen, who appears suddenly when her name is spoken) ‘Twins Effect’ shifts to full on slapstick comedy mode. Then a few moments later a full-blown romantic sub-plot is created wherein vampire prince Kazaf laments how he isn’t allowed to love a human. Ordinarily we’d say that a movie like this suffers for its lack of focus, but oddly enough it actually contributes to its charm.
There is an extended cameo from kung-fu acting legend Jackie Chan (who also sings the theme song). Indeed, the best comparison we can make to explain how ‘Twins Effect’ works is that it feels an awful lot like a Chan movie, except with lots of snarling, blood sucking vampires. That isn’t to mention the secondary love story involving the clear attraction of Gypsy (Chung) to her mentor Reeve (Cheng). That also isn’t to mention the full-blown blockbuster special effects, or the petulant spat for spat rivalry between Gypsy and Helen, or the………you know what? ‘Twins Effect’ is just plain fun. It doesn’t make much sense at times, but then it doesn’t really need to. The character of Kazaf is best in his comedic moments and isn’t really interesting as an object of affection (especially given how ineffectual he is in actually doing anything to help the protagonists), but his plotline is charming. Helen and Gypsy switch from highly technical fighters to slapping girls and back again for no real reason, but their fighting is hugely entertaining. ‘Twins Effect’ is a uniquely odd but hugely fun movie and you will probably never see anything else like it.
IS ‘TWINS EFFECT’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?
The opening scene of ‘Twins Effect’ involves a train pulling into a station. Reeve and his current partner are preparing to fight and Reeve starts to explore the train which is revealed to be full of dead bodies. There is a small amount of blood. However, this is quickly revealed to be a vampire trap as the ‘bodies’ spring to life and attack Reeve. The trademark ‘large’ vampire teeth are displayed prominently and on one occasion the teeth are covered in blood, although this is only for a very short shot. Most of the rest of this scene is typical kung-fu action, with punches, kicks and people being thrown into walls. The vampire hunter’s weapon of choice is a sword, but the vampires are generally capable of blocking these with just their arms and legs. There are no real cuts shown, except a close up of when Reeve receives a sword blow to the leg. There is some blood here but the shot is brief. One vampire has an arm cut off, but there is no blood or gore. There is no lingering on pain or suffering during this fight except for the end where a character is badly hurt. There is a small amount of upset, but the camera work and music are focused on action and there is no real focus on emotional distress beyond a brief moment.
The second scene is set in a bar where Kazaf and his advisor, Prada, are drinking from wine bottles clearly marked ‘blood’. They are portrayed as sympathetic and drink the blood as if it were wine. There is no blood staining of their lips or any other such marks. Helen arrives to chastise her boyfriend, who is cheating on her. His dialogue goes on to compare where his new girl is more physically attractive than Helen, but the language isn’t coarse (“she’s big where you are small, she’s thin where you are fat”…etc). In fact, he is terrified of Helen and is desperately trying to make her leave. In order to get her to go he agrees to ‘cut off a part of himself’, although this proves to be a very small non-gory sliver. Clearly upset, Helen drinks from Kazaf’s (blood filled) wine glass. Kazaf and Prada try to stop her, and are shocked when she downs the blood in one gulp. However, she shows no indication of knowing what she has done and the scene continues. The whole scene is very comedic and light in tone.
When Reeve and Gypsy next confront vampires there is a blink and you’ll miss it shot of bodies on the floor. A vampire looks up at them with blood over his teeth and snarls. What follows is more kung-fu and the ‘horror’ element is so fast here it will probably be of little concern.
There is a short scene with the antagonist vampire duke where, in flashback, he uses some form of magic to levitate a boy of around 8 years old. A small orb leaves the boy’s mouth and he ‘turns off’ the magic, causing the boy to slump to the floor. It is implied that the boy is now dead. This lead vampire is involved in most of the later ‘horror’ moments but he spends most of his time growling and fighting with martial arts rather than actually being threatening in dialogue or action. At the end he is holding a character hostage and drives a large metallic hand through their body. There is no blood and only a few seconds of emotional concern over this and the moment passes quite quickly. At the same time another character is holding a knife to their own chest. The push it in a little and some blood does come out, but the shot is less than 5 seconds.
There is however some stronger emotional distress in the climax involving a key character and the other characters are shown to be upset and cry over the situation. Although it is done as part of an action sequence (so there are other things happening) the music and acting clearly make this a ‘sad’ moment (although not traumatic) and it lasts for a few minutes.
There is some very mild sexual suggestion in ‘Twins Effect’ but this doesn’t really go beyond an innocent sweetness. When Helen and Kazaf go to Helen’s bedroom it is clearly ‘to talk’. She does say that “our beds are for more than sleeping in” but when asked what she means she says “chatting, pillow talk”. They then lie on the bed at right angles to each other and have a short innocent conversation. There is also a scene where a female property agent is talking to the ‘good’ vampires and Prada urges Kazaf to eat her. He says “I’ll take the neck, you pick a spot. Arm, thigh, it doesn’t matter”. However, nothing comes of this.
The vampires themselves vary in tone throughout the movie. They do not generally talk and are more animalistic in nature. They have distinctive blue eyes, large teeth and snarl loudly at all times. That said, they are never a really strong threat beyond martial arts fighting. They occasionally lean in to a character’s neck, but never actually bite into anyone. Indeed, during the moments with Chan’s character, they are treated a little comedically, like inept henchman that cannot finish a job.
One last scene to mention is around half way through. Reeve explains early on that in order to gain the power to fight vampires, they must drink a vial of vampire blood. If the antidote is not taken before a certain time, the drinker will turn into a vampire themselves. Due to a comedic mix-up, Reeve is delayed in getting his antidote and starts to turn. The scene is rather slap stick in nature, but obviously does involve a previously honourable and trustworthy character begin to turn evil. Although we won’t describe the specifics of what happens, Reeve receives an injury which leads to some blood. There is some emotional distress from Gypsy over the situation but this is not strong and is over after around 5 minutes.
CAN I SEE A CLIP?
To continue with what we said in our review, the tone of ‘Twins Effect’ shifts continually throughout the movie. Although there is a large amount of genuinely funny humour and not one, but two, rather sweet love sub-plots, the vampires themselves are dealt with in an ‘action / horror’ way. Although they act very threateningly, the main characters are never really scared by them and almost all of the conflict and tension is due to the fight scenes which are done in a goreless and bloodless manner. Whether or not you feel a child will enjoy this movie will be decided on whether or not they are happy with a generous helping of action-based scares, but due to the strong vein of comedy that is laced throughout, we do not feel that the fear rates particularly highly in this movie. As a general rule we would say that ‘Twins Effect’ is suitable for ages 10 and up, and for those younger it will depend on the temperament of the child in question, but generally not below 7-years-old.
- Violence: 3/5 (whilst there is lots of martial arts there is little gore or suffering)
- Emotional Distress: 2/5
- Fear Factor: 2/5 (this may be a 3 depending on how affected the child is by snarling and growling vampires)
- Sexual Content: 1/5
- Bad Language: 1/5 (one use of a moderate swear word)
- Dialogue: 0/5 (there are no verbal threats – just kung-fu action)
- Other notes: Deals with themes of fighting against your perceived nature and working together to defeat a common foe)
Words by Mike Record