When talking about Asian horror flicks, two countries are mentioned the most: South Korea and, mostly, Japan.
It’s true, those two countries have a great industry when it comes to horror, with very different styles of presenting stories from one another. However, Asia has many more countries (did you know Asia is the biggest continent on Earth? See, reading this blog you also learn about geography!) where, every now and then, a gem comes out.
In Hong Kong, an extremely intriguing action horror film was released five years ago and I really wish many more people watched and knew about it… hence why I decided to include Rigor Mortis in my I JUST SAW series. This was actually a movie that was recommended to me by a reader, so if you have unknown horror movies for me to watch and review, please hit me up!
For now, let’s stick to Rigor Mortis – which is Latin and means the status of human body a few hours after death, when it gets rock solid and bloody cold. Here, we have the simple story of Yau (Anthony Chan), a man who moves to a spooky apartment and starts hearing creepy noises and unsettling voices. Are we in for the usual haunted house movie here, right?
Wrong! Because our main character isn’t your average “dumb American family” that we’ve seen in tons of horror flicks; Yau is a badass fighter who faces, in a stylish and pretty unique way, ghosts and vampires that hide in the house’s walls throughout the whole movie!
Even though half way through Rigor Mortis becomes fast-paced and very intense, the first part is very much a slow-burner (as one might expect from Asian movies). However, even the first half is (almost) never boring, creating a dreadful and suspenseful atmosphere that makes even the dull moments at least interesting.
Yet, Yau is a quite interesting character, albeit not as profound as we’ve come to see in movies from the aforementioned Asian countries. He’s more of a kick-ass character, who perfectly fits in the movie. I can’t really judge the acting though, since my understanding of Cantonese is very limited (or I’d better say I can’t understand a single word), but I find it quirky in a very amusing way.
Speaking of background, I read this comment on IMDb while reading about the film: “You will love this movie if you know Chinese belief and culture better”. Which is simply not true: for a film to be good or great, it shouldn’t be necessary to understand the culture the movie comes from. Heck, I’m Italian: does that mean I could only appreciate Italian movies? That’s just bullshit. Besides, I think Rigor Mortis works perfectly fine even if you don’t have a deep understanding of Chinese (specifically Hong Kong) culture and filmography.
From what I understand, Rigor Mortis is an homage to the 80s vampire slayer movies from China – well, this is a subgenre I have zero knowledge about, therefore I can’t confirm nor deny that. What I can say, however, is that in this film the choreography of the fight scenes is fantastic, with a combination of great CGI, convincing practical effects (with little gore) and slow motions a la The Matrix that never feel obtrusive nor exploitative.
Yet, the climactic ending goes over-the-top for sure but feels satisfying at the same time. Also, the villains in the movie – which resemble classic Chinese masks – are quite freaky with their menacing on screen presence and, especially, with their unseen aura of dread.
Besides that, this is a horror movie that doesn’t try to be scary. On the contrary, Rigor Mortis aims to be atmospheric and unsettling in the first part, and action-packed and extreme in the second, very much succeeding in doing both things.
I do, however, have a few problems with the movie: the story, for example, is not really interesting, which isn’t a bad thing per se, but surely doesn’t make too much sense if you overanalyse it for more than 30 seconds. Also, the movie is too dark, visually speaking. A few times I couldn’t understand what I was watching, which is a shame considering how well-crafted the fight scenes are. I’d still recommend it to everybody, because even if the first half might be boring for some, the second half is a real thrill ride!
Rigor Mortis 8/10
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My review is also available on IMDb – Rigor Mortis (2013)