TIFF 2013: Rigor Mortis (2013)

After starting this write-up the night after I saw the movie, I decided to stop and really think about it a bit more and thats why its coming out even later than the more recent The Wind Rises that I saw. Rigor Mortis is definitely one that has sparked my thoughts quite a bit and even my best friend and I spent a good amount of time discussing it the days afterwards.

Rigor Mortis

Rigor Mortis

Director: Juno Mak

Cast: Siu-ho Chin, Richard Ng, Kara Hui, Hoi-Pang Lo, Anthony Chan, Nina Paw

An ominous-looking public-housing tower is the final rest stop for a miserable former movie star (Chin) who’s mourning the loss of his wife and son. Filled with the old, the weary, and the forgotten remnants of society, this last chance hotel nonetheless contains many comforts of Hong Kong life — a noodle shop, a seamstress and a Taoist monk. Ghosts and spirits already haunt its hallways, but when a distraught widow tries to bring her husband back from the dead, the tenement is plunged into a dark storm of supernatural chaos. – Tiff.net

There really isn’t much I can say without ruining the movie plot anymore, so I just present it with the plot summary from TIFF website. Surprisingly, I was not sure whether there would be a good story behind it. I’m happy to say that the story behind Rigor Mortis and down to every detail actually pays tribute to a lot of Chinese lore or maybe a  more suitable word is superstition or beliefs about ghosts, spirits and more importantly, Chinese “hopping” vampires.  However, for the majority, maybe the appreciation won’t be as deep if you haven’t watched some of the Mr. Vampire movies that were made a while back.

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What very much is amazing is that they retain a part of the old cast.  The main actor was part of every Mr. Vampire movie except for the very first, I believe.  He’s not very known or popular in Hong Kong right now but he carries the role: the drama, the sorrow and rises up to carry something stronger.  I was actually really impressed at him and the style he brought to the movie.  That also leads us to look at the other actors involved.  There were not a lot of characters but the few that were brought in has had a long and outstanding work in the Hong Kong movie industry. Kara Hui is magnificient as a troubled mother and fighting to care for her son and not get evacuated.  Richard Ng’s return to the industry has made me see him a different light with recent movies and this one definitely has to be the best so far.

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Aside from a very well-chosen cast that interpreted the material really well, I have to say that the most surprising thing was Juno Mak’s directorial debut has made me seen the growth in him.  A few years back, Juno Mak was a singer who faded fairly quickly and had many rumors of not holding up his own but rather having a rich family to support his work.  As he came back this time with a movie that was part of TIFF, I was a bit skeptical but the trailer made it look extremely promising.  The best part was the way he directed the movie,  He gave it a very dark feeling and added on a good amount of gore.  Lets say for some scenes, I was happy that we chose to eat AFTER the movie.  The eerie feeling and the old traditional folksongs/chants (I’m still trying to figure out the word for it) that reflected the spirits and vampires to set the tone of the movie right from the start. A new take to hopefully revive a respected comedic series.  Visually, this was incredibly well done.  It have to applaud the efforts of the creepy effects, the ghosts, spirits and the vampire itself.  Although, Chinese vampires are something like zombies to me.

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Another thing I am very impressed with is the detail.  Many Chinese people will catch onto it as the movie progresses starting from the cursed room number of 2442.  4 sounds like death in Cantonese and 2 sounds like easy.  Next we have talismans that detail the scenes for praying and Buddhism in temples, and the instrument that the vampire hunters use that is how everyday people believe that its to repel spirits, etc.  I’m actually quite surprised this movie made it through to an International festival especially when there is so much that the audience needs to know to fully experience the message sent.  Even when looking at the translation, it doesn’t really grasp the vulgarity of the language used.  Cantonese in itself is already quite a slang Chinese dialect in itself but in this, they implement a lot of vulgar slang to focus probably on the type of people that live there, sarcastic in their seemingly bland life despite all the the abnormality to others who are new to it.

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After some long reflection, I think that I would recommend Rigor Mortis.  One, it packs a lot of scares (although I’m not particularly the right person to ask).  Its not jump scares but rather it builds up on the gore and disgust as it unwinds itself in a creepy way.  The tone is set really well to emphasize the atmosphere Juno Mak wants the audience to feel.  The cast is well-balanced, renowned and really help make the movie and the story engaging and mysterious. Sure, there are flaws, especially in the ending with some bad CGI but to me, it was meant to be that way to complement the ending. Telling you that would be going into spoiler territory and so far,  I’ve done pretty well at staying away. Even with that, most of the movie has some really impressive visuals that work well with everything.  If you can see some Mr. Vampire before, that would be good, but even if you didn’t, I think this one won’t disappoint. Give it a shot, there’s definitely something good about it.  A good directorial debut for Juno Mak in my book and I applaud all the hard work of researching for the depth and symbolism in this.  I respect that a lot!

Have you ever seen any movies with Chinese hopping vampires? Do you know much about Chinese beliefs/superstitions about spirits, ghosts and undead?

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Future Cops (1993)

Its been a while since I’ve done a foreign movie so I’ve been all about changing it up, so I went to my collection and pulled out this flick! The other name for this one is Street Fighter. Just to give you an idea of what you will be expecting. Its one that I’ve been looking for since forever.  I had it on VHS and then it just didn’t work anymore..so I went hunting for a new one and it was impossible to find.  I ended up finding it a few months ago.

future copsDirector: Wong Jing

Cast: Dicky Cheung, Andy Lau, Jacky Cheung, Simon Yam, Chingmy Yau, Charlie Yeung, Ekin Cheng, Andy Hui, Richard Ng, King-Tan Yuen, Aaron Kwok

In 2043, the world is completely different.  Judge Yu is about to send the triad leader Vega to jail. In the midst of all the chaos during his imprisonment, the future cops, Ryu (Aaron Kwok), Balrog (Andy Lau), Dalsat (Simon Yam), Guile (Jacky Cheung) are trying to stop his gang leader, Ken (Ekin Cheng) leading two others, Honda and Sagat.  However, they learn that Ken and company have time travelled back to 1993 when the Judge was only in his 20s to brainwash or kill him, so that it will change the course of events in 2043.  Shortly after, Balrog, Dalsat and Guile also travel and end up landing on the roof of Tai Hung (Dicky Cheung).  They end up making a deal to help Tai Hung gain respect at the high school and get the girl he likes, Charlie (Charlie Yeung) while he helps them search for the young Judge and protect him.  It now turns into a race between the future gangs and the future cops to see who can find the young Judge first.  In the process, they get a bit of help with Tai Hung’s sister (Chingmy Yau), his mom (King-Tan Yuen) and her boyfriend (Richard Ng).

Right off the description up there, you can already see that its going be a cheesy flick, especially now that its 20 years after and we have such good CGI.  This movie is based right off of the characters of Street Fighter.  We have the more noble characters trying to protect justice while there are the triad members who will do anything to not be caught.  Its not going to go down in the greats and some people will even find it a horrible watch.  For me, it may have laughable CGI effects when they are doing all the fighting sequences with the Street Fighter moves, but its just a silly action comedy. I still find it incredibly funny and ridiculous in a good way.

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Why do I like this? First of all, its my type of comedy. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Comedy is very personal.  Your genre could be different from mine and its going to be hard to appeal to everyone.  This one appeals to me and I find it incredibly cheesy funny.  On top of that, they have a great strong cast.  No doubt though, that they did try to build it on the 4 biggest male superstars in that era of Hong Kong show biz: they were known as the 4 Kings in the entertainment business.  This one features 3 of them: Andy Lau, Jacky Cheung and Aaron Kwok.  Aaron Kwok does only a cameo so we’ll leave him out for now.  You all should know Andy Lau by now, he did Infernal Affairs for one.  I’ve also talked about him in a previous review for Tricky Brains. Andy Lau is amazing at what he does.  He may have started as a singer but his acting skills are fantastic and as a comedian, he does a great job.

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I have never been a huge fan of Jacky Cheung and his movies.  Not that he did a lot either.  He focused on his forte and thats singing.  He has an awesome voice and in this one, he does sing a bit.  However, as mature and friendly as he always seems to be on stage, this movie really showed his humorous side and its just fun to see a new character for him.

The rest of the cast definitely deserves some mentioning and introducing.  The lead is possibly Dicky Cheung who is awesome in the area of jokes and being stupid.  That is his forte and he is damn good at it. King Tan Yuen and Richard Ng are now older in the business but still, they were red hot back then as supporting comedy actor and actresses.  King Tan Yuen eventually went on to do supporting roles in Hong Kong TV series where she shined with comedic roles as well.  Of course, how can we forget the great Simon Yam? He did Killzone with Donnie Yen and I personally think he has aged into a very handsome man.  Aside from that we have Charlie Yeung, who has made a comeback in recent years in some action films, her first being New Policy Story across Jackie Chan  (I should rewatch that one soon).

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Being based on a video game, probably did this one crazy wonders, it put a really nice spinoff to the game that was super popular in the 90s.  It brought alive the characters and even though it was horrible CGI, back then, I think in the 90s it would be at par to most of it.  The storyline was pretty decent and they used really awesome jokes.  Some moments were ridiculous, but they were ridiculously funny.  They gave a twist to what the future would be like as well.

Looking back at these movies, cheesy as they are, they were a lot of fun to watch.  Of course, its part of nostalgia to me. However this one held up really well. I had a crazy laugh rewatching this the other day. Its definitely a great source of entertainment. If you can take cheesy action movies, get right on board and give this a shot (its on Youtube, I believe), you won’t regret it!