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London Film Festival 2013: Rigor Mortis Review

Rigor Mortis

By on 22/11/2013

Rigor Mortis plays homage to the classic Hong Kong kung fu horror movies of the 80’s of which I’m a fan of. Hopping vampires known as Jiangshi and plenty of kung fu these films had them all. My first exposure to these were the Samo Hung classic Encounters of the Spooky and Lam Ching Ying (RIP) in Mr. Vampire. They were a part of folklore and urban legend. What made these movies so great were that they were not straight up horror movies but rather kung fu action comedies with Jaingshi added to the mix


Rigor Mortis is Revenge: A Love Story writer Juno Mak’s is his directoral debut and in many ways its shows.


Rigor Mortis Synopsis

It is set in a haunted apartment complex which reminds me much like the Katsuhiro Otomo comic Domu. Out of work actor Chin Siu-Ho, from the original Mr, Vampire movie plays himself, has moved into the complex. He attempts suicide following his loss of fame and loosing his wife and son. As he is dying a ghost that haunts the room tries to take him, but he is saved by Yau, a restaurant owner and ex vampire hunter. This begins the story of haunted apartment complex which includes ghosts and Jiangshi.


Visually Rigor Mortis is great

Producer Takashi Shimizu style bleeds through reminding you greatly of Japanese horror movies like The Grudge and Dark Water.  Another movie that greatly influenced its visual style is Timur Bekmanbetov’s Nightwatch. This mix of styles leads to some great action sequences during the movie. One fight in particular against a set of ghost twins is the highlight of the movie.


Rigor Mortis relies too much on CGI and things and is utilised for shadows and blood. This would have been more effective naturally. This takes away from the effect of the movie. The movie is a visual treat but let down greatly by its poor script and pacing. This makes the film feel like its jumping from place to place when it’s actually not. Chin Sui Ho’s backstory is not really explored anywhere near enough. His sudden change from wanting to end his life to becoming a protector of a family within the block ends up seeming forced. He also goes from main protagonist to playing the side lines in the film. The focus of the movie jumps between too many characters without going into their stories . This ends with the audience haven’t little empathy or being able to relate to any of the characters



Rigor Mortis has the potential to be a modern day classic but falls short

Those out there who like their atmospheric ghost stories this will be for you – I really wanted to love this but couldn’t. Even the scares were not scary enough for me. People expecting a true homage to Jiangshi movies of the 80’s will be disappointed. Rigor Mortis has some of the elements like the hopping vampires, Taoist priests and vampire hunters, there also was not enough of it


Although the film is a definitely homage to the classic genre the things that made the Jaingshi movies so great – namely the kung fu and vampires interjected with perfectly timed comedy was missing from this film.


In conclusion

Rigor Mortis isn’t a terrible film, not being a true homage to Jaingshi movies aside its carried along by some great visuals and eerie set pieces, but let down by the poor script. I wont be rushing to watch this movie again in again


By Tendai – Cognitive Space