Rigor Mortis (2014)
Directed by Juno Mak.
Cast: Anthony Chan, Siu-Ho Chin, Nina Paw, Kara Hui, Hoi-Pang Lo, Richard Ng, Morris Ho.
2014 101 minutes
Not Rated (equivalent of an R for strong bloody violence and grisly images).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, July 7, 2014.
"Rigor Mortis" is steeped in the traditions of Eastern culture and folklore, but it is also undeniably inspired by producer Takashi Shimizu's (director of 2002's "Ju-on: The Grudge" and its 2004 U.S. remake "The Grudge
") past projects, right down to the sight of dark-haired specters crawling across the floor. By now, this cliché of Asian cinema (and the American movies that have since aped this image) is exceedingly tired, typically a sign of a lack of confidence from filmmakers who aren't willing to take their own creative chances. In the case of Juno Mak's debut feature, the film does go in some loopy alternative directions in spite of its derivative characteristics, he and screenwriters Philip Yung and Lai-yin Leung spinning an esoteric supernatural horror-fantasy involving fate, suicide, vampires and ghosts. These spare parts, however, never form a comfortable whole, the characters not developed enough to care about and its CG effects overused to the point of artifice.
Plagued by his estrangement from his wife and young son, actor Yau (Anthony Chan) moves into a deteriorating apartment complex with the intention of killing himself. When he is narrowly saved, a presumably positive turn of events instead proves to be the catalyst for a downward spiral of tragedy which befalls Yau's neighbors. Cue black smoke, red tendrils, twin ghosts, a corpse resurrected into a vampire by his mourning wife, and a fleet-footed little boy with a blond bowl-cut so fake-looking it takes half the film to realize he is not simply a figment of Yau's imagination. Set entirely within the confines of the apartment building where Yau moves, "Rigor Mortis" crosses into batshit craziness throughout, the film feeling more like a series of ideas than an example of cohesion. Lacking in scares and suspense, the picture throttles its audience with visual effects and evocative imagery, but never gets to the heart of the characters. Thus, the experience is an indifferent one, in spite of director Juno Mak's willingness to toss in everything but the proverbial kitchen sink.