Sunday, December 14, 2014

Horror Film Review

Rigor Mortis (2013):  Visually speaking, this film's a slap to the face, a punch to the gut, and a kick in the balls.  On all other levels, it's a scratch to the head.  I'm not a stupid man (a member of Phi Beta Kappa even), but I never quite got a handle on what the hell was going on.  I have my hunches, the primary hunch being this is a bizarre Chinese version of Ambrose Bierce's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge."  The main difference being this is set in Hong Kong and involves angry ghosts, suicide, rape, and uh...zombie vampires.

A mysterious man (Siu-Ho Chin) moves into room 2442 at a dilapidated tenement building and proceeds to hang himself.  Twin angry female spirits who inhabit the room take the opportunity to possess him but are thwarted by the sudden appearance of Yau (Anthony Chan) who cuts Chin down and drives the ghosts out with an exciting combination of black magic and martial arts.  We soon learn the entire building is a hotbed of supernatural weirdness and Yau is the resident keeper of the peace.  Chin then becomes attached to a disturbed woman and her young son, a situation that you know won't end well.  Another tenant, a seamstress has gone round the bend because her adult son died.  She's keeping his corpse in the bathtub full of mud while another resident who dabbles in the dark arts tries to reanimate him.  It works a bit too well, and it's up to Yau and Chin to stop the monster's rampage.

(Here there be spoilers.  Arrgh...)

I should explain that there's a hell of a lot more going on than what I just wrote.  There are numerous flashbacks and back stories and something about a snow globe.  Numerous as well are the disturbing scenes we're treated to including a rape and the aftermath of a boy getting literally torn apart by the resurrected dead guy.  The violence and gore are at a level I've rarely experienced in all my years of movie watching which will definitely be a turn off for some (okay...most) folks.  However, if you can manage to hold down your rising gorge, it's worth it.  The ending, on the other hand, is where the real trouble begins.  Why?  Because it makes no damn sense.  For the sake of argument, I'll stipulate it was all in his head, that the suicidal Chin imagined the whole crazy story in the split second before the noose squeezed the life out of him.  Fine.  My question, then, is who the hell came to ID him in the morgue?  The medical examiner asks, "Who are you?" and the guy replies, "I'm his son." That's it.  Credits roll.  You cannot end a movie like that.  Why?  Because throughout the whole film we're led to believe Chin's young son and wife are dead.  The "son" who came to the morgue is an adult.  So...??????  I could be missing something simple.  I could be an idiot.  I'll gladly admit my idiocy if anyone can explain it to me.

The Skinny

Acting:  As I've said before, I'm horrible at judging acting in foreign language films.  I can say that the performances are mostly reserved and subtle when they could have easily migrated into the realm of camp.
Story:  Bleak and sad with a dash of what the fuck.
Direction:  The second act drags and a handful of scenes are unnecessary.
Production Values:  It certainly doesn't look cheap.  The use of gray tones punctuated with brilliant color (usually blood) is effective.
Gore/FX:  Yes.  Lots of both.  The blood is comparable to that of the Evil Dead remake.  The CGI isn't the greatest but also doesn't detract.
Scares:  Strangely enough, very few.
Ending:  Maddening.
Verdict:  Should you see Rigor Mortis?  Sure.  If you have a cast iron stomach, don't mind subtitles, and can handle the bemusement-inducing climax, that is.

Rating:  3 out of 5


  1. Where the heck do you FIND these flicks????
    ( and sorry --- tried to sign my name instead of anonymous, but ???? wouldn't let me)
    (signed, Sylvia)

  2. Hi. Mostly on Netflix. Although I'm not above trolling the waters of Hulu or Amazon Prime.