asian horror

Rigor Mortis (2013)

01

Juno Mak, musician turned filmmaker brings us this, a tale of an actor turned vampire hunter.  Produced by Takashi Shimizu (Ju-on) this film shares similarities with Shimizu’s most famous series in terms of style and content, though it does a good job of finding its own way.  A vengeful ghost story mixed with a jiangshi (vampire/undead) action film, Rigor Mortis is not particularly scary, but it is a unique and visually breathtaking hybrid of these two genres.

Sweaty’s Stats

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Nudity

A little, but it’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss it sort of thing.  You can check “naked man ass” off the bingo card though.

Gore

It’s pretty bloody and there are some choice scenes of gore.  The movie isn’t a total bloodbath, but what is there is very satisfying.

Scare Factor

Low.  Unfortunately this film did try at being scary, but unless you’re not tired of the whole “pale ghost girls with long black hair” thing, it’s probably not going to give you nightmares.

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Summary

Chin Siu-ho, playing himself, is a failed actor hitting rock bottom.  Star of the wildly popular Mr. Vampire movie of the eighties, he now finds himself jobless and wifeless, with nothing left but a few movie costumes he’s been schlepping around.  He checks into a run-down apartment building with the sole intention of committing suicide.

02

Strap in, because this isn’t exactly the most uplifting tale.

Swinging from the rope, Siu-ho is saved at the last second by Yau, a local chef and tenant of the building.  As he cuts the rope however, something strange occurs.  Something sort of ghost-possession-like, that is.  Yau breaks out some sweet Kung-Fu on Siu-ho until the spirit leaves his body.  He later feeds Siu-ho some rice and he, along with sweet old tenant Aunt Mui, talk the troubled man into not offing himself.

Siu-ho, deciding to stick around for a while, starts to notice other strange occurrences in the building such as Yang Feng, a crazy lady who wanders the hallways with her albino son.  Feng, it’s revealed, “sees dead people,” and especially sees them in the apartment where Siu-ho is currently residing.

03

Yeah, gonna say this would probably wear on the mind a bit.

We cut to Aunt Mui, who busies her time sewing garments for the other tenants and doting on her husband, Uncle Tung.  While taking out the trash, Tung, in a beautifully grotesque sequence, falls down the stairs and breaks the ever-loving shit out of his neck and face.  The distraught Mui seeks the help of Gau, a black magician who is also part of their little community.  He agrees to raise Tung from the dead through a series of spells and potions, though he says it will take some time.

04

I’m sure the neighbors won’t be able to tell the difference.

Meanwhile, we get some backstory.  Yau, as it turns out, is not just a cook – he’s also a vampire hunter.  He knows of the ghosts in Siu-ho’s apartment, but when approached he refuses to help, saying that he’s retired from that biz.  Gau, on the other hand decides it’s time those bitches pay, and so he and Siu-ho lure the spirits out for a Kung-Fu fight; Yau hears the commotion and jumps into the battle after all.  They end up containing the twin ghost girls in a cabinet, which Gau says he will burn later.

05

This is a face you can trust. Certainly not the type of guy to keep mutilated, undead children in his apartment.

Needless to say, he doesn’t burn the cabinet and instead later reveals that he needed the spirits to help resurrect Uncle Tung.  None of that was enough for Aunt Mui though, who learns that there is another way to speed up her husband’s recovery: by feeding him the blood of a virgin.  But who amongst all these characters could possibly be a virgin?

06

Oh.

It’s bad news for young Pak, the albino child.  His mother, crazy Yang Feng searches the hallways for him and hears a noise … coming from a certain cabinet.  And because no one seems to have any problem just entering each others’ apartments in this film, she goes into Gau’s place and unwittingly releases the twin ghosts.

Learning of Pak’s death, Siu-ho, an actor now turned real-life vampire hunter, is determined to put an end to this.  After the vampire Tung kills Gau and escapes the apartment, Siu-ho teams up with Yau to take both the vampire and the twin ghosts down.  It culminates in some Kung-Fu, some Taoist magic and a lot of blood, but it ends with a bit of a twist that you might not expect.  Or … one you might.  It’s not bad; let’s just say, it’s not quite as profound as I think the director was going for.

07

“10/10, brilliant, a masterpiece!”

Final Thoughts

08

Juno Mak, director and auteur (screenshot from a six-frame Easter egg during the credits (??))

This movie gets points for casting marital arts actor Chin Siu-ho, whose credits include Fist of Legend and Tai-Chi Master, playing opposite Jet Li (and in the case of Tai-Chi Master, the lovely and deadly Michelle Yeoh).  As much as I do love to see his skills utilized in a film where some might find it a bit out of place, it did give the movie a much more pulp or comic book sort of feel.  Really, in a movie about spirit possession and raising the undead, the fact that everyone knows Kung-Fu shouldn’t be the most unbelievable thing.

I found this to be an enjoyable film, though it’s not without its flaws.  First and foremost, when – when – will Eastern cinema get over this love of creepy young girls in white dresses with long, black hair?  Vengeful Ghost is the Found Footage of Asia, and it doesn’t look like it’s stopping any time soon.  I typically avoid these types of movies altogether, but since this one featured vampires as well, I decided to give it a shot.  Unfortunately, the vampire was nothing special either.  He started out great; the scenes of him being resurrected were delightfully eerie (and that mask, whew) but it degenerated into a boss fight that just didn’t do it for me in the end.  The idea of the monster was far scarier than actually seeing him attack people, and that was a bit of a letdown.

The standout aspect of this film however, is the cinematography.  The lighting and camerawork are exquisite; there are shots that will make even the most cursory of film buffs quiver.  The effects, while mostly CGI, are also quite good and add a little artistic flair to the overall visual buffet.  It does pace a bit slow but the suspense is genuine and that owes a lot to its cast.  The acting was phenomenal all around.  The characters are interesting enough that you’ll find yourself locked into their struggles.  For once, I watched a horror movie and found I didn’t want people to die.

Overall, a decent film.  It’s more art than the fun bloodbaths we typically feature here, but I think it’s worth a watch.  For this one?  Invite over your snobbish ex-film school friends and break out the mid-shelf bourbon.  Just make sure you’re drunk enough by the end to ignore their “deconstruction of its cinematic qualities.”

Score 7.5/10, visually appealing, compelling story, blows it in the scary department

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IMDB for this vampire ghost story

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3 replies »

  1. This review is outstanding, hitting on a lot of important data regarding the film; & God forbid, it is almost straight up, geniune, bone fide film review shit; very impressive. It is fun, good, unique that we can fuck around with our reviews, & many followers fully expect that’s what they will encounter, but this one is Rolling Stone/Hollywood Reporter style; blew me away; terrific job!

    Like

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