I never had any kind of fascination with Chinese hopping vampires, but in the last few years they’ve managed to hop there way into my brainpan and get noticed. Not sure why either. I reviewed the only American movie based on this mythology, The Jitters (1989), last year, which finally hit DVD through Fred Olen Ray’s Retromedia company.
The only other movies I know of that are about these undead creatures are the Hong Kong made Mr. Vampire (1985-1992) franchise, which are comedies and The Jitters is rather comic based as well. Up to know I’ve been surprised no one has ever attempted a serious film about these things. But to clarify Rigor Mortis isn’t just about a Chinese hopper running amok, it’s got a few more horrors to show us.
By the looks of the opening it appears we’re in for a flashback tale. As the movie starts we see the aftermath of a tragic and bloody incident that has just occurred. The camera slowly sweeps over pools of blood, the inert form of a woman, which we can presume is dead based on all the blood surrounding her, a bloody knife, a caved in wall and two men, one who’s still alive ( we can tell this because he’s smoking a cigerette) and another who’s on the floor covered in mud and not moving.
Is this dude dead too?
Then he moves, and narrates and the movie begins…
Chin (Chin Sui Ho) moves into a seriously dilapidated high-rise tenement. He’s an actor whom we get the impression is no longer viable in his occupation. And we can also tell he looks troubled, depressed, and at his wits end. He’s given apartment 2442, but it’s clear he’s not going to use this space for continued living. With a noose around his neck and cell phone at his ear, he prepares to commit suicide, listening to the voice mail of his son’s voice one last time.
And just like that he swings, but death has other plans for him.
Apartment 2442 is haunted. A husband and wife used to live there. The husband was in the process of tutoring a pair of twin girls, when he suddenly gets it into his sick mind that he wants to rape one of them. A pair of scissors wielded by the other twin girl quickly and violently dispatches him. The killing doesn’t go quite as planned as the girl managed to stab herself fatally in the chest as she pummeled away at the husband. She drops dead and the other sister decides to hang herself.
Yup, you guessed it, the wife comes home and stumbles upon this whole bloody crime scene.
The twins are not at rest, they seek revenge, and try to possesses Chin as he’s dying, but he’s rescued by Yau (Anthony Chan).
As the movie unfolds we get to know more about Yau and the occupants of the tenement, which appears to be a place where the veil between the living and the dead is very thin. I know you’ve probably heard that line used many times before, but it very much applies to this film. Centuries old ghosts haunt Yau’s (a retired vampire hunter) apartment, but him and them seem to live in peace within that small space.
Aside from the twins haunting, there’s another child-like entity shown a couple of times, but we never get any explanation to who or what he is. Same thing goes for a scene where these seven-foot tall monks with umbrellas appear and slowly walk down a hallway.
There’s an old wife and husband in one apartment; the husband loses his life, falling down the stairs and breaking his neck. The wife cannot bear to live without him so she consults another resident, one who dabbles in black magic and performs a ritual that will bring his soul back to his body. This is where the hopper comes in. He basically turns the man into one of those vampires; we even get to see how this process takes place, with the various garbs and incantations.
We’re also introduced to the wife of that psychopathic husband and her blond haired kid. They still live in the building, though not legally for they were kicked out after the incident. They live down in the basement apartment of the security guy.
When the husband’s soul doesn’t return the tenement’s black magic practitioner tells the woman she needs the blood of a virgin to make things better. Now things really start getting out of hand. Where does one find that kind of blood among this cast of characters? Cue the blond-haired kid.
Oh, yeah, that poor toe-head is ripped apart. Not on camera, mind you, but the aftermath suggested as much. Once our hopper gets loose the black magic practitioner, the vampire hunter and our over the hill actor team up to stop it. But parts of that plan go horribly awry too.
The movie is very stylized and at times augmented with very good CGI, especially the ethereal wisps of smoke that emanate from some of the entities. It’s a very downbeat flick as well, which didn’t bother me. The vampire hopper is refreshingly shown to be a savage creature you wouldn’t want to tangle with even on your best day.
There’s also a particular twist ending that normally would have had me pitching a fit, if I had seen this decades earlier, but now, at this ripe old age, I’m okay with something like this worked into a flick. I’ve seen two American movies with this twist and I’m about to name them, so if you don’t want it spoiled look away now, you’ve been warned—Jacob’s Ladder (1990) and Bad Dreams (1988). The former is more applicable here than the latter, for that one’s twist was just that, a bad dream. Rigor Mortis was no dream.
Well Go USA releases the movie here in the states on July 8th in separate DVD and blu-ray editions. General specs are as follows: 1080p 2.35:1 widecreen transfer that looked flawless. Audio, you get two separate Cantonese tracks, a 5.1 DT-HD Master Audio and a 2.0 Stereo track, as well as two English dubbed tracks, a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio one and a 2.0 Stereo one. There are also English subtitles to go along with those dubbed tracks, not dubbed titles but English subtitles that follow the Cantonese dialogue. I personally prefer dubbed English tracks when they are included and the sound on both of the ones included here were excellent.
Sadly there are no extras included for this title. All you get is the movie’s trailer and previews for three other Well Go USA movies including Child Of God, The Suspect and SX_Tape.
There’s a lot of Asian mythology and ceremony present in this movie which isn’t exactly explained but that didn’t take away from my enjoyment of it, in fact it added to it. I loved this movie and hope to see more serious horror outings about Chinese hopping vampires.