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Rigor Mortis: HK Horror Homage
Doctor Strange wearing a bathrobe and flip-flops. That’s old Yau. He also cooks
a mean bowl of glutinous rice, but exorcism is his real calling. His ominous HK
apartment complex keeps his all kinds of busy, but he might finally find an
ally when a suicidal actor arrives in Juno Mak’s Rigor Mortis (trailer
opens this Friday in New York.
and bereft for reasons only hinted at, Chin Siu-ho moves into a building so
decrepit, it could be in Union City, New Jersey. Of course, Chin does not plan
to live there (or anywhere else) for long. However, it turns out suicide is not
painless. Given the spirits lurking about, it is a profoundly dark and
disturbing experience. Fortunately, Yau intercedes at the last minute, but he keeps
seeing the spooks and specters afterward.
unsure what comes next, Chin befriends the former tenants of his flat, the
emotionally shell-shocked Yeung Feng and her ashen-haired little boy, while
tentatively offering Yau a hand here and there.
Meanwhile, Yau’s rival, Gau a shaman who cannot resist dabbling in black
magic, helps Auntie Mui re-animate her recently deceased husband. Even though
she follows his instructions to the letter, Uncle Tung just doesn’t seem to be
his old grouchy self. That will get to be thing for Yau to deal with.
befits a film set within an apartment building, Rigor Mortis is fully stocked with odd characters, many of whom are
played by veterans of the Mr. Vampire series.
The comings and goings get rather complicated, but the atmosphere trumps
everything. Mak and production designer Irving Cheng create a very creepy space.
The exorcism process also involves some distinctive martial arts choreography,
for extra added genre appeal. However, the ending is rather frustrating,
bringing to mind a 1990 mind game film that would be spoilery to name by title.
a case of meta-meta casting, Mr. Vampire star
Chin Siu-ho plays his washed up namesake. He is so convincingly world weary, he
practically blows away with the wind. Conversely, his former franchise co-star,
Anthony “Friend” Chan commands the screen with his sly presence. Likewise, Paul
Chung chews enough scenery for a Hammer Horror film as the reckless Gau.
Although best known for her martial arts chops, Kara Wai is also surprisingly affecting
as the traumatized Yeung Feng.
Mortis looks incredible, in
no small measure thanks to cinematographer Ng Kai Ming, and it delivers a
number of deeply unsettling scares. Mak and his co-screenwriters, Philip Yung
and Jill Leung, take a shotgun approach, spraying all manner of supernatural
business across the screen, but it works more often than not. Recommended for
fans of HK horror, Rigor Mortis opens
this Friday (6/6) in New York at the AMC Empire.
Labels: Hong Kong Cinema, Horror Movies