A public-housing tenement is plunged into a dark storm of supernatural chaos, in this loving tribute to the cult classic Hong Kong horror-comedy series Mr. Vampire.
Rigor Mortis is an audacious and visually stunning debut that establishes Hong Kong pop star-turned-director Juno Mak as a filmmaking talent to be reckoned with. It's also a loving tribute to Hong Kong cinema history, most notably the cult classic horror-comedy Mr. Vampire, which launched the mythology of the hopping vampire. It not only features Mr. Vampire star Chin Siu-Ho as an aging actor, it reunites several other players from the original series, a casting decision as effective as it is nostalgic.
An ominous-looking public-housing tower is the final rest stop for a miserable former movie star (Chin) who's mourning the loss of his wife and son. Filled with the old, the weary, and the forgotten remnants of society, this last chance hotel nonetheless contains many comforts of Hong Kong life — a noodle shop, a seamstress and a Taoist monk. Ghosts and spirits already haunt its hallways, but when a distraught widow tries to bring her husband back from the dead, the tenement is plunged into a dark storm of supernatural chaos.
First-time director Mak dispenses with slapstick and goes right for the jugular. In this atmospheric nightmare, effects are used not merely as shock gimmicks, but to accentuate the horror palette.
Make no mistake, this is a journey into the
exotic and esoteric superstitions of Chinese
lore, which may at times baffle some
Western horror enthusiasts unfamiliar with
its threats and talismans. But Mr. Vampire
fans and adventurous cinephiles alike will
delight in the way this mythology continues
to heighten the sense of dread.