Hong Kong Filmart: Vampire Genre Gets Chinese Spin

With his upcoming horror title "Rigor Mortis," director Juno Mak revives the golden age of Hong Kong supernatural cinema.

Pop star-turned-director Juno Mak vows that the vampire in his directorial debut, Rigor Mortis, differs from the glut of Hollywood blood-sucker films and TV shows.

“Europe has their legends of Count Dracula, the U.S. has their zombies and Twilight vampires, but the Chinese ‘jumping vampire’ in my film is not something you can find easily in overseas markets,” Mak tells The Hollywood Reporter. “They are unique in that they represent a certain period in Hong Kong.”

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Mak grew up watching the Chinese vampire films of the 1980s, such as the popular Mr. Vampire series, and was inspired by them. “Chinese vampires partly represent the golden age of Hong Kong cinema,” says Mak, who wrote, produced and directed Rigor Mortis. “No one has made a Chinese vampire film in almost 30 years.”

The fascination with vampires or zombies, he says, is that the world in which they inhabit has its own set of rules.

“I found that there are amulets of a myriad of colors that represent distinctive magical powers to hinder a Chinese vampire in different ways,” says Mak. He also created new rules for his vampires, such as anti-gravity action scenes. But like their foreign counterparts, Chinese vampires enjoy drinking blood. “We used 1,460 liters of fake blood,” he says.

Produced by Mak’s Kudos Films, co-produced by Japanese master of horror Shimizu Takashi and repped by Fortissimo Films, Rigor Mortis reunites as many of the cast of the original '80s Chinese vampire movies as the filmmaker could find, including Chin Siu-ho, who plays himself as a down-and-out actor-turned-vampire hunter. “It’s harder to gather this cast than to get A-list actors,” says Mak. “Many of them are not active in the film industry anymore, and some of them have left the business.”

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Mak, whose credits include writing the screenplay for his star vehicle Revenge: A Love Story, which won him the best actor award at the 2010 Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival, has steered clear of the comedic elements of the original Mr. Vampire films or cheap scare tactics to create an atmosphere of terror, with female ghosts thrown in among the jumping vampires.

With the film targeted for a late-2013 release, Mak is also developing a thriller with Japanese bad-boy auteur Miike Takashi (Hara Kiri: Death of a Samurai in 3D) attached as producer.