When: Friday, July 4th @ 2:00pm
Where: The Film Society of Lincoln Center's
Walter Reade Theater, 165 W 65th Street, NYC
Rigor Mortis will be shown at the New York Asian Film Festival as part of a Chinese "hopping-vampires" double-feature with Mr. Vampire (1985). The showtime for Friday is indicated as 2:00pm, and I believe that Mr. Vampire will be shown first.
In Juno Mak's 2013 film, Chin Siu-Ho stars as 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.
|Chin Siu Ho moves in
The tenement's denizens are a strange bunch. Yau (Anthony "Friend" Chan, 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.
|Yau, the vampire hunter
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 serious fall in one of the building's stairwells.) Finally there's Gau, who dabbles in the black arts.
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. (Mr. Vampire, in which Chin Siu-Ho was one of the stars, was of the most popular Geung Si films. That 1985 film's success led to a number of sequels.)
|Yeung Feng and son Pak
Rigor Mortis is an homage to these classic genre 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.
|The sisters from Room 2442
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.
The New York Asian Film Festival 2014 runs through July 14, 2014.