You ever have one of those movies that you watch, get to the end and ask, “What was that?” For me, that movie was Juno Mak’s Rigor Mortis, a vampire/possession-zombie(?) movie that starts and ends in some kind of gray mud, which can probably serve as some sort of commentary on the entire film. It was made in tribute to the Mr. Vampire series of films and stars a lot of the actors who made their name in those films. I have not been able to track these down, but I have it on good authority (Wikipedia) that they exist. So that’s something.
Rigor Mortis belongs in the jiangshi genre. Jiangshi are hopping corpses in Chinese folklore. These are also known as “hopping vampire films”, which sounds about right. There were hopping entities in this film, complete with red tendrils protruding from their entire body, for reasons I wasn’t entirely clear on. Were they vampires? I’m still not entirely sure. They seemed to be more like demons or ghosts, but that’s neither here nor there.
Let me try to explain the plot to you and we’ll see if my head explodes. A washed-up actor moves into a decrepit apartment complex with lots of strange characters. He immediately tries to kill himself and is saved by a resident; a great rice cook/vampire hunter.
There’s a woman who lives in the complex with her little white-haired son. They used to live in an apartment, but now they don’t, so they wander the halls, stealing food. They live in the basement because the kindly security guard feels bad for them. They used to live in the apartment the actor moved into, but her husband cheated on her and got killed by ghosts? Maybe? That whole scene was hard to follow.
There’s a warlock. Like, a straight-up warlock. It might just be me projecting my thoughts when looking back, but I think he had a really dark goatee and wore a robe. (He did not wear a robe.) He coughs a lot and smokes “special cigarettes”. (Spoiler alert: it’s the crushed-up bones of innocent children.)
There’s an elderly lady and her husband. He dies by falling down stairs, and the warlock convinces her to do a ritual that will revive her husband. It’s weird and creepy and she becomes unhinged quickly. He becomes a monster who likes to kill, and she seems legitimately surprised by this, despite the fact that he looks like a monster and was raised from the dead by a warlock.
There’s a big fight scene at the end that I didn’t fully understand. There’s a little scene after the fight scene that I didn’t fully understand.
I feel like I would have understood this better if I had been very familiar with the Mr. Vampire films. But I have never seen a Mr. Vampire film, so I was very much in the dark for the duration of the movie.
It looked really cool, though. I feel like this was one of those movies that would be perfect for putting on in the background of a Halloween party. If I had Halloween parties, I would absolutely do that. Mute the movie, throw some music on and glance over at the screen from time to time. It would be tremendous.
I can’t recommend it as an actual movie, though. Cool as it may look, the story is absolutely nonsensical. It wasn’t a complete waste of time, but it was a 75% waste of time.