A gorgeously crafted but downbeat tribute to a classic Hong Kong horror genre.
Juno Mak (Hong Kong, Midnight Madness)
Wednesday, September 11, 11:59 p.m.
Ryerson Theatre (43 Gerrard Street East)
Thursday, September 12, 12:45 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 (350 King Street West)
Friday, September 13, 6 p.m.
Scotiabank 9 (259 Richmond Street West)
Rigor Mortis is a visually stunning (if somewhat stately) homage to Hong Kong’s jiangshi—or “hopping vampire”—movies of the early 1980s, including Gui Da Gui (Encounters of the Spooky Kind) and Mr. Vampire.
An unnamed fading film star (Chin Siu-Ho, of Mr. Vampire fame) has moved into a tenement with the intention of killing himself, only to discover that the building is seething with spirits in various states of unrest. When his neighbour Auntie Mui (Nina Paw Hee-ching, in a powerful performance) is suddenly widowed, she turns to a magician to bring her husband back as a jiangshi, with ghastly results. A local vampire hunter, in turn, enlists the film star to help destroy the ghosts possessing the creature and end its reign of terror.
Pop-singer-turned-actor Juno Mak makes an impressive directorial debut, confidently leading a cast of veteran actors through the eerie, elegiac story. That said, the slow pace, grim tone, and unfamiliar mythology may be off-putting to those who enjoyed the energetic fun of the original films.