Juno Mak Talks RIGOR MORTIS: Exclusive Interview

First of all, I would like to say I feel very honored to be able to participate in this year’s Toronto International Film Festival ”midnight madness” section. I'm writing this email in Venice at the moment, where the film will be premiereing here tonight. -- Juno Mak writing from Venice

Robert Mitchell: What do you like about genre films?

Juno Mak: I guess what’s fun about genre films throughout cinematic history is mainly because of the specific ”sets of rules” that apply to them. Such as zombies, you have to shoot them in the head. Vampires with silver and all. And then we have ”gueng si”, the traditional hopping vampires from Asia. Glutinous rice, wooden swords, yellow amulets, taoist priest, etc., etc. These rules only apply to this particular genre. A funky, yet special, type of rules, may I say.

But these genre rules have been evolving throughout the years too. It's a sort of evolution amongst us storytellers.

RM: How are you putting your own spin on genre storytelling?

JM: I want to explore the evolution of this genre. More humane, more focused on the drama, the sadness. We have also gathered the original elements from the genre, deconstructed and reconstructed it. Giving it a new touch, and most importantly, I, personally, wanted to explore the emotional side of it. The struggles these characters go through in life. The main theme of this film is about ”the fear of being forgotten” or even the fear of losing youth. Some sort of loneliness among us as humans. The world changed, everyone changed and adapted to a better life. But these characters they didn't.

RM: What did you like about the orginal Mr. Vampire films that were apart of "gueng si"genre?

JM: To me, the original Mr Vampire films represent not only a big part of my childhood. But also a golden time period of the Hong Kong cinematic history. Anyhow, the ”gueng si” genre has been gone for almost 30 years now.

RM: You cast a lot of the original actors from the Mr. Vampire films, what made you decide to bring them into the film and what was it like to work with them?

JM: What really fascinated me was the wrinkles on the actors and actresses faces after so many years. It, for me, represented their sorrow, their struggles in the most powerful, yet subtle way. I'm sure they have been through a lot being on the film set of RIGOR MORTIS. I sensed that this was not only a sort of revisiting the genre for myself as a director, or even a script writer. It was  a revisiting for every one of them. A bond that belonged to them. I'm glad to be among the original actors.

RM: What would you say you have done with the "gueng si" genre conventions and made them your own?

JM:  RIGOR MORTIS itself is not a remake of the original, nor a sequel or prequel. To me personally its more like some sort of a revisit to the genre. The film is about life, not purely a gore slasher, but also an evolution of the genre, with a heavy yet dramatic twist on the story. I have personally taken out the comedic element from among the elements in the original. There might be some sort of humor in RIGOR MORTIS, but the film is not purely a comedy.

Thanks, Juno Mak from taking time out of your very busy schedule to talk with us. Can't wait to meet you in Toronto! -- Robert A. Mitchell

RIGOR MORTIS Screening Times:
Wednesday, Sept 11th, 11:59 PM RYERSON
Thursday, Sept 12th, 12:45 PM TIFF BELL LIGHTBOX 2
Friday, Sept 13th, 6:00 PM SCOTIABANK 9

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