A man quietly moves into a rundown housing community intent on committing suicide, but sometimes death is worse than living.
More or Less Not The Same
Director Juno Mak is probably best known for his unsettling girl-next-door thriller Dream Home. In Dream Home his protagonist goes to lengths to improve and maintain her lifestyle, up to and including murdering her neighbhors. What happens in this life means a great deal to her and she’ll murder anyone with great prejudice for challenging that viewpoint. By contrast, actor Siu-Ho Chin playing his namesake is already a well known film star, but he is a soul (figuratively speaking) who’s forgotten life’s worth and as we first meet him, is moving into a rundown apartment building to end his existence. Chin will learn very hard lessons about the importance of living, however, and not just from his new neighbors, but from the dead he wishes to join.
The trailers sell the film a bit short in the sense that they promote it as an action packed ghost beat’em up. Now granted, it is that in parts, but it also pleasantly reveals itself to be a great cautionary POV on death. The lesson being learned — that death isn’t necessarily the better choice. It’s a viewpoint that’s hit home from the moment we see our first poltergeist.
Chin is largely the only character that wants to die in the film. Most everyone else, including the dead are fighting to hold onto life or get back to it, any way they can. Death in Rigor Mortis is a state of torment and regret and those that know it avoid it regardless of the trials that afflict them in life. There is one person who fetishizes death, but we won’t spoil their part. You can discover them when you see the film for yourself.
About the only real negative to the film’s story is the ending. Not that it sucks outright, but it kind of undermines the gravity of what came before it.
Look and Feel
The film is shot well. The color palette is effective in depicting the somber atmosphere and is mostly limited to pale blues, greens, and pinks with sparing flashes of yellows and reds for impact.
Like Dream Home before it, Mak has portrayed the violence of dying in the most excruciating and agonizing detail yet. There are hangings and stair falls and drownings and chokings and impalings, all shot with ingenuity and cringe-worthy precision. If nightmare-inducing makeup excites you — this film has plenty for you. A lot of blood and bile awaits your twisted sensibilities.
The action is the film’s obvious draw and in that respect it doesn’t disappoint. There’s a great deal of wirework and CG doubles employed to create wholely original sequences. You haven’t seen an exorcism this fun in a long time.
Rigor Mortis is a refreshing take on the haunted house sub-genre. It’s not perfect, but the positives outway the rest. If you like a bit of storytelling with your action and gore, you’ll enjoy this one.