A famous actor named Chin Siu-Ho splits with his wife and moves into a very old apartment building with the intention of killing himself there. He hangs himself from the ceiling fan, and is subsequently rescued by Brother Yau, one of the building’s residents who also runs a small restaurant there.
The room he’s staying in is room 2442, which years earlier had been the site of a horrible tragedy. A man who tutored a pair of twin teenage girls there brutally raped one of them. The other killed him by stabbing him repeatedly, but also somehow managed to get stabbed herself in the struggle, and when it was over, they were both dead. The sister who’d been raped and stabbed through the hand with a knife, killed herself in her grief by hanging herself from the ceiling fan. The girls’ ghosts have been wreaking havoc ever since, and one of them even possessed Siu-Ho after he tried to kill himself. That is, until Brother Yau freed him from her control.
Later, when an old man named Tung falls down the stairs and dies, his wife Mui goes to the resident black magic practitioner and asks him to bring her husband back to her. He does, but unfortunately her husband comes back as one of the classic, Chinese hopping vampires, only he’s far more deadly than the ones you’d find in say, the Mr. Vampire films where they were played more for humor than treated as a serious threat. Now with the body count rising, it’s up to Brother Yau and Siu-Ho to stop the rampaging Tung before its too late.
There’s a lot to this film that goes well beyond what I just said in the above synopsis. The whole place is actually full of ghosts that are attached to the land there, but for the most part they’re all harmless. The only ones that are really dangerous are the twins, who are both for all intents and purposes both insane and evil.
The story with Mui and Tung is a really sad one. They were a couple that had been together their whole lives, and when she found out her husband was dead, she tearfully begged Gau, the black magic practitioner to bring him back. It was all really touching, because she loved him so much that she felt like she just couldn’t go on without him.
The odd thing about this film is that there’s a depth to the characters, even though there isn’t. Now, what do I mean by that? What I mean is that you’re presented with numerous people who all have their own lives and stories to tell. Obviously they only get into any sort of depth with a few of them, but even then they don’t go into it too awful much. There’s just enough to make you feel it, but they don’t overdo it to the point where the film drags or becomes tedious. You don’t really need it spoon fed to you though. It’s enough to know that it’s there, so it creates more of a feeling and a mood around the different characters rather than presenting you with detail filled back stories of them all.
The effects in this film are really well done, and I’ll tell you right now that you really need to pay attention every single second, because there are things that you’ll miss if you’re just casually watching. At one point, Brother Yau blows smoke and you can see the outline of a ghost in the smoke as it moves through the air. In another scene, there’s a girl looking out from the depths of a mirror, and then after Brother Yau walks by she’s gone. There’s a lot of little subtleties that are really well done and add to the tension and creepiness of the film in ways that go above and beyond what the bigger effects manage to achieve.
Speaking of effects, there was one that actually made me cringe. Siu-Ho gets speared to the ground by a metal pole that vampire Tung throws right through him while he’s standing. In his efforts to pull the pole free from the ground, he actually twists a little and falls, sliding down the length of the pole until he hits the ground. The way it looks when it happen will likely send a chill up your spine and make you shudder.
This film does have a few story issues. Small things that aren’t explained or that don’t make a whole lot of sense, but in the overall picture, they really didn’t matter all that much.
Some films go out of their way to be shocking. So much so that they become more pretentious and annoying than anything else. This film is as an homage to the Chinese vampire and ghost story genres, and it pulls off both beautifully, while turning the creep factor up to eleven. If you love creepy films, then look no further. Rigor Mortis is creepy in spades, and I highly recommend it.
If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can check out its page on the Well Go USA website here.