Between the 1980s and early 90s, many of the popular horror films created by the Hong Kong film industry did not seem to get far unless a hopping vampire was involved. 1985’s genre-defining horror comedy Mr Vampire became so popular that it began a cycle of sequels and spin-offs. Rigor Mortis, the directorial debut of Cantonese singer, Juno Mak, attempts to revive the dormant fascination by transposing it into the style and structure of a J-horror. Who better to help in this project than infamous J-horror producer Takashi Shimizu (Ju-On/The Grudge), who helps bring this grey and slightly more serious horror movie to life.
The film stars Mr Vampire’s Chin Siu-ho as a screen version of himself, now a washed-up actor who moves into a run-down apartment block with the sole intention of committing suicide. However, he ends up joining forces with a vampire-hunter-turned-cook Yau (Anthony Chan) to help fight against the hopping vampire equivalent – supposedly “fast” zombies. Although the action is spectacular at times, the film doesn’t really work well to build a solid explanation on either the genre it’s trying to revive or Chin’s screen persona. From there, the story seems to fragment into too many subplots. The main one concerns a kindly old seamstress who, after her husband dies, uses black magic to resurrect him and grows homicidal in the process of doing so.
Overall, it could be argued that this film is about the horrific consequences of dabbling in things that humans never should, like the after-life. Things start going wrong when the balance is disrupted. At times, Rigor Mortis can be a bit of challenge to sit through if one isn’t already a fan of Asian cinema or that particular style of horror. Nonetheless, it’s an enjoyable watch as it gives today’s horror fans something a little different from the norm.
Amaliah Sara Marmon-Halm
Rigor Mortis is released on 24th April 2015
Watch the trailer for Rigor Mortis here: