Friday, January 13, 2017

Rigor Mortis (2013) - Foreign Film Friday

Number Rolled: 19
Movie Name/Year: Rigor Mortis (2013)
Tagline: Nobody’s story ends well here.
Genre: Horror
Length: 101 minutes
Rating: NR
Production Companies: Kudos Films
Producer: Juno Mak, Takashi Shimizu, Steven Lo, Bernard Lai, Purcy Cheung, Eric Huen
Director: Juno Mak
Writer: Jill Leung, Philip Yung, Juno Mak
Actors: Anthony Chan, Siu-Ho Chin, Fat Chung, Kara Hui, Chun-Man Ko, Giselle Lam, Billy Lau, Hoi-Pang, Richard Ng, Hee Ching Paw
Stunt Doubles: Wong Hoi Sum, Choi Kwok Ping, Leung Shing Hung, Ringo Chan, Chan Kin Wing, Chau Suk Wai, Che Kim Fai, Tang Tai Wo, Mr. Niwat Seehanon

Speech Available: Cantonese
Subtitles Available: English

Blurb from Netflix: In a tenement swarming with spooks, a suicidal actor finds himself fighting the forces of evil when a tenant unwittingly sparks supernatural chaos.

Selina’s Point of View:
I’m going to start off by saying that I’m a lot more familiar with the culture utilized for this film than I was for the last foreign film we did. I am in no way, shape, or form an expert. Still, it means not as many cultural references went over my head. I hope this becomes the case for other cultures as our Foreign Film Friday continues on.

I loved this film.

From the very beginning I knew it was going to be an easy watch because it was visually stunning. Due to the fact that I don’t know much of the language (I can pretty much only say/understand some of the words you’d say at a restaurant), I was very reliant on visuals.

The film was beautiful, but the actors were also incredibly convincing. In fact, they were so convincing that I forgot I was reading subtitles about a quarter of the way in because I felt like I was hearing the actors speak the words. That makes this a phenomenal film to watch if you’re dependent on the subtitles. No one wants to be aware that they’re splitting their attention – Rigor Mortis makes it feel a lot less like a chore.

Although I know a little more about the religions and base culture of the Cantonese people, I don’t know much about their cinematic culture. A lot of the storyline – such as the type of vampire involved, the way the ghosts were portrayed, and the way the exorcism was performed – was completely new to me. It may very well be old-hat for Cantonese cinema, but for me it was completely unique.

I don’t think I’ve seen a unique take on exorcisms since… ever. I’d say since The Exorcist (1973), but that was made an entire decade before I was born. That means I saw other exorcist films before the original. Unfortunately, that ruins the perspective a little bit.

If I had to make a comparison between Rigor Mortis and an English-language film, it would easily be Sucker Punch (2011). Not for the story, but for the visual effects. There was that same clean-cut, phenomenally choreographed aspect to it.

This is my favorite of the foreign films we’ve watched so far, and it sets the bar very high for movies on the horizon.

After the credits an image flashes very quickly – it must only exist for one or two frames. I caught it, but Cat didn’t – it happened that fast. I had to rewind and pause several times before I was able to get a screenshot. It focuses on a man sitting in a theater. It’s not a spoiler. It’s actually an image of Juno Mak (Let’s Go!, Revenge: A Love Story, Dream Home), the director of the film. I’m not sure if this is customary for Cantonese films or not. Feel free to let us know!

Cat’s Point of View:
My lack of knowledge of Cantonese culture was evident as I watched. I had a pronounced sense that I was missing something important in several places – only because of my unfamiliarity.

For now, let’s put that aside and focus on the movie. I’ll come back around to that.

I found the blend of CGI, animation, and live action paired with practical effects to be quite the interesting mix. For a few moments here and there, I felt like I was watching a visually well-wrought anime. It almost had that Sin City (2005) effect of a graphic novel brought to life through the usage of so much grayscale and selective coloring. This wasn’t quite as starkly contrasted as those movies were, though.

The creepy-crawlies were very creepy. I also wished in several places through the movie that I knew more of the significance behind the scenes. As it was, I didn’t have very long to ponder on that. The pacing kept moving right along, carrying with it the feeling that more is going on than meets the eye.

I have so many questions!  Not all of them were as a result of the culture-gap, either. There were plot-related aspects that just kept me guessing. I’m still questioning reality, hours later.

One thing I did take note of was that the original title for this movie was Goeng-si. Another spelling variant on that is Jiangshi. The English title is pretty much a literal translation since it means ‘stiff corpse’ and that is descriptive of what rigor mortis is. I’ll let you discover for yourself how that ties into the movie. It’s worth a peek and it might answer some questions for you – I found it interesting, at least.

Apparently this film was supposed to be a bit of a homage to a Chinese film franchise that started with the horror comedy Mr. Vampire (1985). Several of the cast members from those movies are in this film. Richard Ng (Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life, Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong, Skiptrace) is one of them. From his IMDb listing, it looks like another movie in this same vein seems to be in post-production.

Before I ramble on too long; let me say in closing that I wouldn’t have a problem recommending this to others. I also have a newfound desire to go dig up some Chinese horror comedy from the 80’s and 90’s.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 65%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 57%

Netflix’s Prediction for Selina – 4/5
Selina’s Trust-the-Dice Score5/5

Netflix’s Prediction for Cat – 2.5/5
Cat’s Trust-the-Dice Score3/5

The Random Rating: R

P.S. After the first part of the credits, when the vampire wheel disappears, a photo of director, Juno Mak, appears for a split-second. Don’t blink, you may miss it.

Movie Trailer:

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