Writer: Jill Leung, Philip Yung
Cast: Siu-ho Chin, Anthony Chan, Kara Hui, Richard Ng, Hee Ching Paw, Billy Lau
Running time: 105mins
The lowdown: The Hong Kong “hopping vampire” movies of the 1980s are spliced with old-school J-Horror in Juno Mak’s imaginative debut. In a dilapidated apartment block, Sui-ho Chin plays himself as a washed up movie star, possessed by troubled spirits after a botched suicide attempt. But, these spirits are not the only ones going bump in the night in this sombre, visually inventive spooker. Hong Kong film fans will enjoy watching Mr Vampire alumni Siu-ho Chin and Anthony Chan pay homage to the horror favourites they appeared in thirty years ago.
The full verdict: You don’t have to be familiar with the Mr Vampire series to enjoy the chills of Rigor Mortis. But, we recommend you watch at least one, to enjoy Hong Kong horror comedy at its best and to see Siu-ho Chin and Anthony Chan as comic versions of the characters they play here.
Plot runs second to brooding atmosphere, co-producer Takashi Shimizu’s Ju-on: The Grudge series felt in the ominous dread the rumbles throughout. Mak also packs the film with Chinese death mythology and references to horror classics – The Shining receives a lot of love, down to the use of malevolent twin sisters. But, again you don’t need to be familiar with either to enjoy the shivers here.
While Rigor Mortis moves at a stately pace, the director understands the fun of these films is in watching kick-ass kung fu exorcists smackdown with the undead, so lets loose in various well-executed wirework lightshows that manage to be spectacular, brutal and chilling.
Alongside Chin and Chan, Shaw Brothers kung-fu queen Kara Hui gives an emotional performance as mother with a tragic past, while the legendary, shovel chinned Richard Ng makes for an effective vampire and Hee Ching Paw his doting wife.
Uneven, and you may have a scratched head putting all the pieces together, but Mak’s handling of mood and action, plus an eye for arresting visuals, makes him a director of real promise.