Director: Juno Mak
Screenplay: Philip Yung, Jill Leung, Juno Mak
Starring: Chin Siu-ho, Anthony Chan, Kara Hui, Lo Hoi-pang, Paw Hee-Ching
Producer: Takashi Shimizu
Country: Hong Kong
Running Time: 105 min
BBFC Certificate: TBC
Full to the brim with ghosts, jiangshi and copious glutinous rice, director Juno Mak unleashes Rigor Mortis and more hopping undead on the unsuspecting public. Its dark and bleak while being highly stylised, turning twisting camera work evolves into an industrial landscape of towering concrete and urban supernatural living.
Chin (Chin Siu-ho) of “Mr Vampire” fame, moves to an apartment in a rundown block where Uncle Yin the caretaker greets him with a ritual, as a polite gesture, to show respect to something, alarm bells should be ringing now. However Chin is not too concerned about his new surroundings; he is depressed by the break-up of his marriage and has decided to end his life. He hangs himself, hallucinating as he dies of deep crimson blood flooding across a white tablecloth, as life drains from his madly flailing body he is possessed by twin ghosts who inhabit the grisly flat. Retired vampire hunter Lau comes to the rescue, cutting Chin down to fight the evil entities inhabiting Chin’s frantically thrashing body. Chin is pulled back from the brink of death to spew copious blood across the apartment floor.
Chin recovers from his near death experience in Lau’s restaurant, eating a seemingly never ending bowl of glutinous rice where he is questioned about apartment 2442, seems like this apartment has a history. Lau is from a long line of vampire hunters, but all the vampires have vanished, so what does a vampire hunter do when there are no vampires to hunt. All vampire hunters have a good supply of glutinous rice as it is used in the fight against vampirism, so a vampire hunter without vampires becomes a cook.
We meet more of the motley neighbours, husband and wife pair, Uncle Tung and Auntie Meiyi, thankfully the cantankerous, Uncle Tung comes a cropper and falls down the stairs breaking his neck. Meiyi is perturbed by her husbands’ untimely death and sets about preserving his body with the help of sorcerer Gau. To preserve the body a dark place must be chosen… within the place where he was last living. To collect the essence of the “Yin” spirit, crows blood is used and the coffin suspended above the floor. Gau carries out the mysterious ritual and places a mask on Tung, which must never be removed…never remove the mask.
We find out that Uncle Yin is looking after Yang and her son Pak, Yang was happy once, living with her husband, but she walked in on him rapping one of his students, he was a nasty piece of work, pinning the student's hand to the table with a knife so she can’t get away. Yang was not impressed and hacks her promiscuous husband to death with a pair of scissors, he takes some killing so she keeps on hacking.
Chin wants rid of the ghosts in his apartment, so he asks for help from Gau but Chin is possessed by them again, Lau hears the racket and bursts into help Gau exorcise the ghosts from Chin. They manage to exorcise the ghosts and trap them to a cupboard, which they intend to burn.
Meanwhile Tung is not recovering as required so Gau offers to help with another spell using the blood of a virgin. Yin the caretaker makes the mistake of stumbling across Meiyi’s secret, so Meiyi murders Yin to stop him discovering that she hopes to reanimate her husband into a Jiangshi. A jiangshi is a “hopping” vampire or zombie, a type of reanimated corpse of Chinese legend and folklore. Unfortunate Pak makes the mistake of wanting to use the bathroom, only to be killed by Tung, jiangshi Tung is now on the rampage and attacks Gau.
Yang searches for her son Pak and releases the ghosts by accident and is killed by Tung, Tung is now possessed by the ghosts and is much more powerful. Tung impales Chin but Chin escapes and Lau helps Chin lay a trap for Tung. Chin manages to kill Tung, Meiyi in her misery commits suicide, a nice slice to the neck does the job and Tung crumbles to dust.
We end with a version of events as they would occur without the supernatural world taking part, making for a much simpler and less bloody end for everyone involved.
Contemporary cantonese chills seduce in this parallel world of twisted misshapen crawling ghosts, trailing red ribbons of ectoplasm, the hopping undead, martial arts and blood wishes. The gripping and stylish Rigor Mortis in homage to “Mr Vampire” is a Hong-Kong movie occasion which is both mystifying and hypnotic, inspiring a desire for greater knowledge of the dark art of the Hong-Kong film.
The DVD reviewed did not contain any extras, the sound and picture is of flawless quality with English subtitles. Rigor Mortis is released by Metrdome Distribution in DVD format onthe 24th April.