Someone far wiser than I said it best: the truest horror films are the ones that scare you with the strength of their ideas. They scare you with what they don’t show you as much as what they do, and it’s those fleeting imaginings that you assemble in your own mind’s eye that’ll keep you awake at night. Granted, there has to be some compelling vision at the heart of every good spook story because that’s precisely what gets the ball rolling inside your head. If RIGOR MORTIS is any indication, then you’re be screaming downhill at the speed of sound before all of it comes crashing to its chilling climax.
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging: “A washed-up actor, desperate and suicidal, moves into a haunted apartment building where supernatural creatures, ghost hunters, zombies, and souls of the undead walk among his neighbors.”
And that’s quite probably all you need to know about RIGOR MORTIS. Does that sound interesting? Does that pique your curiosity? If so, then skip to the bottom. If not – or if you’re still uncertain – let me offer a few more words of inspiration.
Specifically, much ado has been made about how RIGOR MORTIS allies itself to some fairly classic Chinese vampires stories. Now if you’ve seen any AND you didn’t find them to be your cup of tea, let me assure you that for all of its posturing RIGOR MORTIS resembles very lightly many of those classic tales. To be fair, I almost avoided giving this one a spin myself when I saw that it drew its inspiration from them, mainly because I’ve yet to see one I’ve really thoroughly enjoyed. The ones I’ve seen have been a bit too ‘chop-socky’ here and way too much “chop-sucky” there. But RIGOR MORTIS? No, THAT was a compelling Chinese ghost story.
And I think a lot of why I enjoyed it so much is that RIGOR goes to great lengths to create and capture such a vividly interesting world with which to set these characters in. These vampires aren’t so much interested in your blood as they are in pursuit of your soul. These people are all – one to the next – broken and worn down by the lives they’ve lived. And even in their weakened mental state and in their dilapidated surroundings the one thing they know for certain is all they have is one another. No one from the world outside is coming to help them, to join them, to save them. Once you come here? Then you’re here until you die … and, even then, you’ll continue to haunt these ghostly corridors for the rest of an eternity.
Into this mix is thrown the ultimate pretender – a failed actor whose stature has fallen from the silver screen. With the “loss” of his family (quotes are important there, folks), he’s at the end of his rope; and he’s willing to do anything he can to end the pain, longing, and suffering he feels. It’s when you’re in this state that these spirits of the other realms will seek you out and come calling.
I won’t go on for fear of spoiling it. I think at this point you’re either up for this flick or you’re not. I certainly hope you give it a go.
But – if that isn’t enough – let me add: RIGOR MORTIS has been nominated for a boatload of awards. Yes, some of them are for the acting, but many of them are for the technical aspects of the film, things like visual effects, costuming, cinematography, and the like. If those things mean much to you, then I’d almost demand you watch the film as it’s downright incredible. Specifically, the set decoration and the scene composition is unlike anything done in U.S. ghost films in years (if ever), and it deserves to be celebrated for bringing such a unique and haunting world to cinematic life.
RIGOR MORTIS (2013) is produced by Kudos Films. DVD distribution is being handled by the reliable Well Go USA Entertainment. For those needing it spelled out perfectly, this is a Cantonese spoken language release (with English subtitles) but there is an English-dubbed track available. As for the technical specifications? My God! I’m still in shock! The sights and sounds of this film are nothing short of spectacular; were I thirty years younger and still studying film the way I did in college, this flick would be required viewing (so far as I’m concerned). Lastly, if you’re looking for special features, there are some obligatory bonus shorts … but what lasts here is the motion picture itself.
HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION POSSIBLE. Sure, some might dismiss RIGOR MORTIS as being relatively light on story (it uses the framework of a traditional ghost story and then twists the Hell out of it!) but what it may lack in narrative depth it makes up for (in spades) in atmosphere, visuals, and scares a’plenty. The Chinese have forgotten more about classic vampire tales than any TWILIGHT scholar will ever know. Give this disc a spin and I guarantee that – even if you don’t much care for the story – you won’t be able to keep your jaw from dropping to the floor. It’s pitch perfect.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Well Go USA Entertainment provided me with a DVD copy of RIGOR MORTIS by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.