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Mortician
Mortician

Bao Beier gets the feels in Mortician.
Chinese: 臨終囧事  
Year: 2013  
Director: Cub Chien Kong-Hon
Producer: Manfred Wong
Writer: Manfred Wong, Ding Xiaoyang
Cast: Baobeier, Jim Chim Sui-Man, Janice Man, Stanley Fung Shui-Fan, Kristy Yeung Kung-Yu, Jing Gang-Shan, Monica Mok, Lam Chi-Chung
The Skinny: While not exceptional, Mortician surpasses its misleading horror film marketing to become a solid little drama.
 
Review
by Kozo:

Pseudo-horror-comedy Mortician got a limited Hong Kong theatrical release months after its mainland berth despite the fact that itís pedigree is so Hong Kong rich. Producer-writer Manfred Wong and planner Raymond Yip are long-familiar names, while director Cub Chien cut his teeth on Hong Kong films Scare 2 Death and The Vampire Who Admires Me. The former was a straight horror film and the latter a Wong Jing-produced genre mix, but Mortician diverts even further, and becomes something like a B-grade version of award-winning Japanese film Departures. Calling it that may be an exaggeration but Mortician easily trumps expectations and is better than its marketing and cast suggest.

Right away, the film announces that it isnít a horror film with a throwaway gag about a cab driver (Lam Chi-Chung) picking up a stereotypical long-haired Asian female ghost Ė only it turns out that she really isnít one. Debunking of genre expectations complete, the film moves onto its main story: Niu Xiaobo (mainland comedian Baobeier) was once struck by lightning when crossing paths with the funeral business run by his mortician uncle Li Qingsong (Jim Chim). As an adult, Xiaobo canít smile due to nerve damage from the lightning incident, and Qingsong blames himself. Qingsong takes it upon himself to care for Xiaobo, and hires him to work in his China-located funeral parlor, a full-service outfit where bodies are stored before being given ornate funerals and cremated.

At first, Xiaobo has a tough time adjusting, and sometimes scares himself while wandering around the vast, spooky funeral parlor. However, he soon becomes acquainted with young and always-masked mortician Bai Yujie (Janice Man) and long-tenured employee Mr. Wang (Stanley Fung). There are misunderstandings and minor conflicts, but ultimately Xiaobo learns each personís story before starting to write his own. And thatís it. Mortician is basically a light character drama with small stories about the people working at or passing through the funeral parlor. Not all the stories are successful Ė one subplot about an obnoxious CEO who fakes his own death is especially insufferable Ė but the film finds poignancy in Xiaoboís maturation and in his relationships. Thereís some explanatory voiceover along the way but some things are done wordlessly, a rewarding development for viewers who actually pay attention.

Mortician is somewhat of a bait-and-switch, in that it uses horror tricks to tell a non-horror tale, but that doesnít mean the movie is bad. Actually, the horror technique is surprisingly solid. Cub Chien uses old HK Cinema tricks like wide-angle lenses and spooky blue lighting, and smartly creates tension in some scenes. Since this isnít really a horror film, there arenít any real scares though some imagery can be intense. The cast is fine; Baobeier is a likable lead, while Jim Chim uses his overacting to actually add layers to his character. Mortician may not fully satisfy; its plot turns are not really commercial ones and indeed, the whole thing feels so minor as to be needless. But thereís a surprising, low-key humanism to the film, not unlike what was found in a few of the Troublesome Night films from the nineties. Those films were B-grade diversions but some in their number managed surprise and even depth. Saying the same of Mortician would not be a stretch. (Kozo, 4/2014)

 

Availability:

DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Panorama (HK)
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Mandarin and Cantonese Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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