Review: RIGOR MORTIS 殭屍 (2013) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Review: RIGOR MORTIS 殭屍 (2013)

Slow pace aside, RIGOR MORTIS is beautifully atmospheric and spookily violent Hong Kong vampire movie.

The long-forgotten '80s Hong Kong "hopping vampire" movie genre made a comeback in the form of Juno Mak's modern re-imagining of RIGOR MORTIS. It's about time.


Chin (Chin Siu-Ho) stars as a washed-up actor who chooses to move into a rundown apartment building so he can commit suicide. When he tries to hang himself in the apartment 2442, he is haunted by evil spirits who tries to possess his body. Then along came a bespectacled vampire hunter Yau (Anthony Chan), who manages to save him on time. The supernatural activity that occurs upon Chin is only the beginning. But things start to go from bad to worse when an elderly seamstress Aunt Mui (Nina Paw) enlists the help of another vampire hunter Uncle Gau (Chung Fat) to resurrect his dead husband Tung (Richard Ng) back to life.

With JU-ON director Takashi Shimizu on board as a co-producer here, Hong Kong pop star-turned-director Juno Mak cleverly mixes the once-popular MR. VAMPIRE franchise and J-horror with extreme violence. Visually speaking, RIGOR MORTIS is flawless. Ng Man-Ching's cinematography is appropriately moody while every shot here is impeccably staged.

But it was the cast that surprises me the most. All of the Hong Kong cinema's veterans here are equally top-notch. Some of them even deliver scene-stealing and award-worthy performances. To me, I'm particularly enjoy the laidback performance of Anthony Chan who likes to speak foul languages, as well as Nina Paw, who gives a genuinely heartfelt performance as Aunt Mui.

The first scene where Yau gets rid of the evil spirits from possessing Chin's body during the suicide attempt; the gruesome flashback scene involving the fate of the twin sisters; and the battle scene between Yau, Uncle Gau and the spirits of the twin sisters.

The biggest weakness in RIGOR MORTIS is its slow pace. Unlike the usual '80s Hong Kong vampire movie you used to see, director Juno Mak opted to take things in a leisure manner which might be a real turn-off for impatient viewers. I don't mind if a filmmaker takes his time to develop his story, but I admit there are some scenes which are really long-winded. Then there's the payoff after the slow and inconsistent build-up. Instead of an all-hell-breaks-loose ending, what you get here is somewhat anticlimactic. The final battle between Chin, Yau and the undead Tung is surprisingly lackluster. Frankly, I'm expecting more body counts from the undead Tung who finally resurrected as the "hopping vampire" towards the ending.

While RIGOR MORTIS isn't exactly the modern masterpiece of a "hopping vampire" movie genre that I hoped for, it remains admirable enough for a first-time director like Juno Mak and I can't wait to see what he will deliver next.

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