31 Days of Horror: RIGOR MORTIS

Jumping vampires and zombies known as jiāng shī might be a laughable concept in the West, but for those in China and many parts of Eastern Asia, it’s a traditional belief that still strikes fear in a great deal of natives. Jiāng shī became a popular horror genre in the 1980s, but as more serious horror from the West and Japan became popular in Eastern Asia, the boom of jiāng shī films began to die down.

In an attempt to revitalize the genre, new director Juno Mak released Rigor Mortis, known as Jiāng shī in China, in 2013. Down to its core, Rigor Mortis is a tribute to popular jiāng shī films of the ’80s, and is most recognizable in its cast: Chin Siu-ho, Anthony Chan, Billy Lau, and Richard Ng of the Mr. Vampire series, as well as Chung Fat from Encounters of the Spooky Kind.


After losing his wife and son, once famous actor, Chin Siu-ho — who plays a fictionalized version of himself — moves into a tenement building with the intent of killing himself. As Chin begins to fade out, an evil spirit possesses his body, in turn grabbing the attention of spiritualist, vampire hunter, and neighbor, Lau.

Deciding one failed attempt is enough, Chin begins to acclimate to his new surroundings and meet his neighbors — all of which are odd and in complete awareness of the spirit problem in the complex. For the tenants of the haunted building, everything is going normally, that is until one older neighbor loses her husband and begins a dark ritual in an attempt to bring him back.

With so much going on within the apartment building, the movie keeps the viewer thoroughly entertained with its seemingly never-ending amount of ghostly tales and residents. With a cast of veteran horror actors and a fresh-faced horror director, Rigor Mortis navigates through a complicated, layered plotline effortlessly.

For most films looking to take on such a winding story, they tend to get lost and lose their original focus somewhere in the middle. Fortunately, Rigor Mortis paces itself well, and doesn’t allow itself to become over encumbered by the amount of mini-plotlines peppered along the way. Unfortunately, though, the last 5 minutes ruin the whole thing. Without giving anything away, the movie could have been such a phenomenal reintroduction to the jumping vampire genre for a new generation had they stopped where it seemed it should have. In saying that, it isn’t an uncommon factor these days that plagues modern Chinese and Hong Kong movies.

Gore & Scares

Although Rigor Mortis is actor / performer Juno Mak’s first picture behind the camera, he is no stranger to the horror genre; starring in gory shockers Dream Home and Revenge: A Love Story. Rigor Mortis may be more of a supernatural focused film than a shocker, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a good deal of gore featured. Balancing between shocking gore and eerie spectral hauntings, the movie is a fantastic balance of the two horror styles sure to please both violent and spiritual horror fans alike.


The good: As a whole, Rigor Mortis brilliantly ushers in a revitalization of the jiāng shī genre for the new age. The bad: Jiāng shī are more of a laughable concept than frightening one for Westerners and the ending is a film ruining, unnecessary addition. In the end, it’s a fantastic film with an ending that almost entirely spoils the whole effort.

3 out of 5 stars

3 out of 5 stars

Cover image via


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Categories: Chinese / Hong Kong Films


Founder, Editor-in-Chief at Another Castle | Twitter: @ComradeJen

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3 Comments on “31 Days of Horror: RIGOR MORTIS”

  1. 02/19/2015 at 5:09 PM #

    Reblogged this on Rice Cake.


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