Blu-ray Review: “Rigor Mortis” Is Visually Stunning But Mainly Unresponsive

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Review by James McDonald

A public housing tenement is plunged into a dark storm of supernatural chaos.

“Rigor Mortis” is that rare movie-hybrid of martial arts, the supernatural, vampires and ancient Japanese folklore. It is visually stunning to behold and while I give kudos to the filmmakers for aiming so high, unfortunately, other than the movie looking absolutely beautiful, everything else falls flat. The movie starts off with Siu-Ho (Siu-Ho Chin), a one-time hotshot movie star for reasons that are never fully explained, winds up at a very rundown apartment building that looks like it should have been condemned decades ago. After moving into his apartment, he begins to experience strange anomalies and he soon finds out that the last tenant who lived there, also died there, horrifically.

It appears that Siu-Ho’s wife kicked him out of their home, again it is never explained why and because she has stopped him from seeing their young son, his apparent pride and joy in life, he attempts suicide by hanging but one of his neighbors, Yau (Anthony Chan), breaks into the room and saves him. Come to find out that Yau is a clairvoyant and can see and communicate with the dead. He informs Siu-Ho that there are restless spirits all around them and that those who died violently, will continue to haunt the living until their souls can be laid to rest. Another neighbor dies in an apparent freak accident and his body is taken by a medium who plans on resurrecting him as a vampire, infused with the spirits of two young dead girls who died most savagely.

As more people in the apartment complex begin to disappear, it’s up to Yau and Siu-Ho to stop the evil spirits from crossing over into their world and send their souls back to hell. It’s not often that a movie tries so hard to interject so many different genres into one story and it’s probably for that same reason that most times, it is not successful. At one point in the movie, Yau talks about ancient Japanese monsters and the vampires he has been hunting all his life but when the producers try to mix this theme, along with martial arts and ghosts and spirits, it’s this very reason that the film seems to fall down because it can’t concentrate on one category at a time.

Rather, we get a partial story about this spirit and then a fragmented story about that ghost and why this vampire is doing this and why that medium is doing that. The story becomes too convoluted and the characters and their plights become secondary and instead of caring about them and their circumstances, instead, we find ourselves drawn into the creepy and effective special effects of tortured spirits and demonic vampires. Granted, while there are some genuinely frightening and impressive monsters in the movie, when they take over, and the narrative and character development becomes insignificant, then you’ve already lost your audience.

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James McDonald
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