With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Friday, June 06, 2014

RIGOR MORTIS opens today!

Well Go USA
Rigor Mortis / Geung si
Directed by Juno Mak
Produced by Takashi Shimizu and Juno Mak
Hong Kong, 2013, 105 minutes

Hong Kong hopping vampire flick Rigor Mortis opens today in North America. Theatrical markets include New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco/Bay Are, San Diego, Seattle, and Honolulu. The roll-out will continue this month in Austin, Houston and Lubbock, Texas and in Toronto. (Check local listings or the Rigor Mortis page at wellgousa.com.)

Chin Siu Ho moves in

Chin Siu-Ho stars as Chin Siu Ho, a has-been actor who moves into a decrepit tenement building complex. He had left his village when he was 13 and become a leading actor by 16, but has fallen on hard times. Divorced, or at least separated (it's not clear which and doesn't really matter), he dearly misses his son. Not helping his depression is the fact that his room, number 2442, is inhabited by the ghosts of twin sisters who died there under horrific circumstances.

Yau, the vampire hunter

The tenement's denizens are a strange bunch. Yau (Anthony "Friend" Chan, Twin Dragons, in his first film in nearly 20 years) is the last in a line of vampire hunters. He saves Chin when he hangs himself from the ceiling fan in his room. Yeung Feng (Kara Wai, My Young Auntie) used to live in #2442 with her husband and son Pak. Now she wander the halls and lives with Pak in an area provided by Uncle Yin (Lo Hoi Pang, Blind Detective, Drug War), the building's 72-year-old security guard.

Auntie Mui

Auntie Mui (Nina Paw, a.k.a. Hee Ching Paw, Bullet in the Head, Special ID) has diabetes; she does sewing and takes care of children. Her "Old Man" is Tung (Richard Ng, Once Upon a Time in China and America), who has a series fall in one of the building's stairwwells.) Finally there's Gau, who dabbles in the black arts.

Yeung Feng and son Pak

The film genre of Chinese hopping vampires is known as Geung Si. Although termed "vampires," to me they're more like zombies. But unlike their Western counterparts, these creatures are extremely rigid (hence the title Rigor Mortis) and can only ambulate by hopping around. One of the most popular Geung Si films was Mr. Vampire (1985), in which Chin Siu-Ho was one of the stars.The film's success led to a number of sequels.

The sisters from Room 2442

Rigor Mortis is an homage to these classic movies, but one with a modern day visual sensibility. It's dark and eerie, and it'll keep you enthralled.

AsianCineFest rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars; highly recommended.

For those interested in reading more about Chinese hopping vampire films, I strongly urge you to check out Grady Hendrix's  Film Comment article Kaiju Shakedown: Hopping Vampires Edition. Grady was one of the founders of Subway Cinema, the organization that began the annual New York Asian Film Festival.