Published Sep 12, 2013Any movie featuring an authentic Chinese hopping vampire is justified in its existence. Okay, maybe not, but you've got to applaud any filmmaker with the chutzpah to go there. Taking a step back from mythological monsters rendered all the more ridiculous by the specifications of regional lore, Rigor Mortis is still most notable for prominently featuring a gnarled bloodsucker doing the bunny step.
Hyper-stylized out the wazoo, seasoned singer/actor Juno Mak's first gig as a film director calls to mind a more consistent and polished version of Timur Bekmambetov's Night Watch. Alas, outside of its aggressive, eye-banging art design and pornographically glossy special effects, it's just as disappointingly mediocre.
For the most part, the performances are as overblown as the ultra-slick aesthetic. The action unfolds in a haunted hotel where a guilt-stricken actor of television fame tries to hang himself and is nearly possessed by malevolent spirits while in the act of expiring. Before his soul can depart in a frenzied, symbolic montage, the hotel chef bursts into the room in slow motion to chop him down and banish the emo ghost twins and the inky tendrils swirling around them.
Granted an extension on his vaguely miserable life (it's unclear if his wife and daughter are dead, if they left him or he abandoned them), our sad actor (Mr. Vampire star Chin Siu-Ho) gets to know the unusual tenants of the building — the trained, but never tested vampire hunter chef most of all. He's soon sucked into the strange and increasingly bloody affairs of his new neighbours and begins picking at the mysteries and clandestine machinations of someone trying to work unsavoury occult mojo on the hotel dwellers.
Liberally littered with mythological factoids and packed with quirky personalities, opulent imagery, wonderfully ghastly creature design and commercially arty fight sequences, Rigor Mortis is never boring. But it's also never as profound or entertaining as it strives to be, so lost in the narratively insecure need to excite via flash and pretention.
Fans of the emotionally inert and exceedingly pretty will be most stimulated.