Rigor Mortis (2014) – Movie Review

rigor-mortis pic 1

Rigor Mortis (2014)

(Hong Kong)
directed by Juno Mak, 

produced by Takashi Shimizu

Chin Siu-ho, Anthony Chan, Billy Lau and Richard Ng, Chung Fat

With such a generic title, I wasn’t expecting too much from this film, but I guess something about the cover art and the 4-star rating on Netflix made me hold it in my queue for many months. I had no idea it would become one of my favorite horror films of the year. It is an Asian horror film, subtitled, and steeped in Asian beliefs and traditions about the dead. Traditions such as leaving food outside your door for your deceased relatives and knowledge about jiangshi would help understanding the film but Rigor-Mortis-posterI’d say most viewers can catch on quick enough.

A young actor, Chin, takes up residence in a low-grade housing complex after his wife and child are torn away through divorce. He feels great guilt and remorse for not spending time with his family while pursuing the selfish accomplishments of his career. In the first few minutes of the film he attempts suicide by hanging and is barely saved by the buildings insightful superintendent. However, being so close to death has awakened the dark side of the spirit world to his senses. The apartment complex is populated by a multitude of spirits who have not moved on and evil entities with bad intent. Chin is thrust into the role of defending the building and it’s inhabitants, especially a young mother, Yang Feng, and her albino son, from these entities while coming to terms with his own misgivings in life.

The film is visually stunning, high action, but evenly balanced with creepy atmosphere and thoughtful introspection. It’s populated with interesting characters and intriguing aspects of love, hate, jealousy, guilt and revenge, while never getting preachy or overzealous on moral stances. It shows that people just do what they do because they are human and are bound by human emotions. While I don’t think it would be a favorite for all horror fans, it connected with me on an intellectual and emotional level. You would have to enjoy and be partial to paranormal horror. If you like, The Sixth Sense, The Eye, Dark Waters, mixed with some spiritual Matrix-like fight scenes, I think you will find the film quite good.

High energy spiritual battle film worth a viewing for those who like the supernatural.

I give it 4.0 ghastly ghouls out of 5 on the scale of morbidly chilling fiends in the dark.

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A jiangshi, also known as a Chinese “hopping” vampire or zombie, (more like a ghostly ghoul to us) is a type of reanimated corpse in Chinese legends and folklore. A certain kind of rice is used in battling this demonic entity.

15 thoughts on “Rigor Mortis (2014) – Movie Review

  1. Glad you liked it! I saw this at TIFF 2013. I understand the whole origin of where this comes from. If you watch the Mr. Vampire, this is where it all comes from. Plus, Juno Mak does this as a passion project to honor that series using Chin Siu-Ho and a bunch of other actors here that was attached to that series. I personally thought it was a great directorial debut for him. I just also worried that it would get lost in translation with all the traditions of jiangshi and little symbolic details that only people with deep Chinese roots would understand.

    Great review! 🙂

    • I would think horror fans would like different ideas and angles in ghost and paranormal films. That was part of what I liked about it 🙂 I do want to check out the other related films like Mr. Vampire, but I don’t think you had to see them to understand this one. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Kim.

      • Definitely not. This is a stand-alone film. I’m just glad you liked it. I wondered how well it would translate if you didn’t already have a knowledge of the culture, thats all 🙂

    • Yes, it was an interesting film for me. For a while I was burned out on American versions of Asian films because I think they were taking too much of the culture out of the story. Some other good Asian films are The Maid and my all time fave, Cold Fish. Both are full of the Asian culture and beliefs. Since seeing this I want to see another film by this director called Mr. Vampire.

  2. Pingback: The Best of 2014 | parlor of horror

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