It’s been awhile since I’ve watched a movie with Chinese Vampires hopping around. Dressed in long silk robes, arms raised like a Frankenstein Monster and bouncing like a kangaroo. Ridiculous? Yes. Popular? It was the “Gangnam style” of Asian movie monsters.
Rigor Mortis is the latest additional to the Jiangshi film genre that involves the undead creature called a “jiangshi ” (A special type of Vampire-Zombie that primarily hops to move) that absorbs life force from living things at night and hides out during the day. And they’re not typically brain dead either. So if a living human person is already somewhat of an jerk , they can become a full blown asshole if they become a jiangshi. There are more than 8 different methods a person can become a jiangshi from just their funeral going wrong. There are many factors that effect the progress: Chinese zodiac sign, the Weather, what they ate for lunch, the type of comb they used, a Child’s happiness, etc. Based on all this lore, I am surprised Hong Kong doesn’t have a plan for a Jiangshi outbreak.
This type of horror creature was part of my childhood movie experience, right alongside Jason and Freddy, and Judge Doom from Roger Rabbit. But at like the bottom of the creature list.
Rigor Mortis is about a broken actor Siu-Ho (played by Siu-Ho Chin) who has recently moved into a rundown apartment building where his new odd neighbors consist of a lazy security guard (played by Lo Hoi-pang), a drunk ex vampire hunter (played by Anthony Chan), a sweet elderly couple (played by Richard Ng & Hee Ching Paw), a secretive taoist monk (played by Chung Fat)) and the eerie atmosphere surrounding the building. Just when Siu-Ho thought he has reached the bottom of his life, he is caught in a supernatural nightmare that his new home has unleashed.
Producer Takashi Shimizu has helped create the Ju-On/The Grudge and his influence is applied to many of the horror elements in this movie. (You can thank him for making that “Girl with messy long hair covering her face in a white dress” monster type extremely popular). Jiangshi films are usually comedy horror stories that focuses more on the silliness of the Jiangshi creature and the crazy dark magic that is involved, but Rigor Mortis focused on the horror element with stylish visually effects, intense gore, and well choreographed action scenes that helps fit a Jiangshi movie into modern Asian Cinema.
Rigor Mortis won’t be for every martial arts or horror fan, the movie does its best to explain some of the rituals and customs, but there are some traditions that people might not understand so easily. (Maybe if you’re a Naturo fan, you’ll get the summoning Jutsu/magic writing parts). But Rigor Mortis is a tribute movie to classic Jiangshi movies series (Mr. Vampire and Encounters of the Spooky Kind), so it’s more digestible of a plot if you had some experience with the genre first.
Overall, I recommend any fan of Asian horror to seek this movie out. There is enough modern elements that keeps the movie fresh and interesting, while having some of the classic jiangshi elements that anyone can enjoy. So watch this with an open mind and avoid those scary parts of Chinatown at night now.