(A.k.a. GEUNG SI)

Troubled soul Chin (Siu-Ho Chin), an actor in films since the tender age of 16, turns up at a remote tenement block one afternoon, his narration instantly clueing us in on the fact that he's there to hide away from his public profile and deal with inner demons.

Aged security guard Uncle Yin (Hoi-Pang Lo) chirpily escorts the sombre Chin to his room, apartment number 2442. As soon as he's alone in there, Chin wastes no time in setting up a noose from the rotating fan in the centre of the room's ceiling and hanging himself from it.

Alas, a whirlwind of aggressive apparitions appear, pulling and pushing at Chin in attempts to thwart his suicide plans. This alerts the tenement block's elderly residents, who break into the room and "rescue" Chin from himself.

The following morning, he finds himself having breakfast at a nearby sushi bar owned by Uncle Yau (Anthony Chan), a sage-like pillar of the community who also happens to live in the tenement - and, it just so transpires, was the one who saved Chin from killing himself.

Chin is initially absorbed in his own self-pity, his pining for the family he's lost clearly obscuring his view. But it's not long before even he realises that those around him in his new dwelling have a strange habit of dying and then returning mere days later.

Indeed, the revelation that Yau is a veteran Taoist vampire hunter comes relatively early into proceedings.

With that shocking piece of information disclosed, the film is able to get on with what really interests it: introducing us to its various elderly characters' backstories, while setting the scene for vampire battles of a paradoxically intimately epic nature.

Will Chin find a purpose among his new community?

Juno Mak directs, reuniting players from MR VAMPIRE while attempting to drag Hong Kong celluloid bloodsuckers screaming into the 21st Century. He's only semi-successful.

RIGOR MORTIS looks impressive from its opening shot onwards. Each composition is immaculately framed and organised; colours are muted to the point of virtual monochrome, save for key elements such as blood glowing in unholy red. The pace is brisk despite frequent pauses allowing characters to stare contemplatively into their own imaginary abysses. Performances are convincing throughout; the sound design is at equal turns eerie and bombastic - just how you'd want it.

And yet, this abundance of style undoubtedly detracts from the very simple, albeit potentially emotionally engaging, story being told. All too often Mak hits us with searing camera flourishes or noisy set-piece shenanigans which feel more like boasts of technical prowess than anything else: they add little to the overall experience.

I'm not a big fan of CGI either, and it's used pretty badly here. Firstly, its usage is copious. Secondly, it's not employed very well. It often looks cheap and unconvincing. Consequently, the lousy digital effects - along with the over-stylised veneer - often pull the viewer out of the action, reminding us that what we're watching is nothing more than handsomely mounted fiction. Where's the suspense in that?

Although I found the film capable of engaging me as it progressed, these distractions kept cropping up at regular intervals. The film is very cleverly made, undoubtedly (the choreography in the action sequences is impressive too), but nothing narratively substantial comes from it. And the ending is a major letdown.

Metrodome's region 2 DVD presents the film fully uncut.

The film's original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 is retained here, accentuating the well-considered compositions with accurate framing and bold image representation. Blacks are sturdy, colours are true, detail is fine throughout.

Cantonese audio is provided in 2.0 and 5.1 mixes. Both proffer reliable playback, the latter clearly having the edge thanks to additional separation which really comes into its own when the sound design is let loose during set-piece moments.

An animated main menu page conveys the film's stylistic approach well; the static scene selection menu affords access to the film by way of 12 chapters.

Alas, there are no bonus features on offer. Unless you count the trio of trailers that Metrodome's disc opens with: CITADEL, PAINLESS and DARK TOUCH.

RIGOR MORTIS boasts slick production values and a highly stylised sheen. There's enough going on here to ensure it's always watchable, but the term "style over substance" hasn't been quite so applicable in some time. Metrodome's disc is characteristically basic.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Metrodome
Region 2
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review