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Rigor Mortis (Blu-ray / DVD)

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Rigor Mortis (Blu-ray / DVD)Starring Chin Siu-ho, Anthony Chan, Kara Hui, Hoi-Pang Lo

Directed by Juno Mak

Distributed by WellGo USA


Any time a somber man, seemingly incapable of smiling, takes up residence in a decaying apartment complex void of any sense of style whatsoever, you can be sure supernatural chaos is not far behind. Point of fact – a good 90% of the time, when ANYONE moves into a new house, apartment, condo, or even a friend’s cabin in the woods, there’s bound to be bloodshed!

Perhaps this is a filmmaker’s way of expressing the stress and heavy anxiety surrounding a major upheaval of one’s life… picking up from one place you’ve made a home and moving into a new place that someone else poured energy into… whether good or bad.

Rigor Mortis begins with our own somber man: aging movie star Yau (Chan), who comes to live in a nondescript high-rise with a box of his belongings and a weight upon him that labors every step. It’s not long before his apparent sadness is preyed upon by the creatures already living in this structure… and within his very apartment as well.

“Hello, exterminator? Yes, we’ve got Grudges. Yes… long dark hair… wacky, crawly walk, way too pale to be Goth. How soon can you come out?” Yau’s cramped apartment is revealed to already have two tenants who refuse to leave and seem hellbent on nabbing themselves a new body. As the ultra creepy set of female specters attack, we find a sliver of hope in opposing supernatural forces which, rather reluctantly, stand as a beacon of light in the darkness… or, as his day job would suggest, the best damn rice cook in town. Sometimes, a rice cook is the same as a shiny beacon… at least in Asian cinema.

This single event opens the door to all manner of creatures hiding in every crack and shadow of this massive complex, scurrying alongside an odd cast of human characters. As to which group is stranger, I’ll leave that for you to decide. The film skillfully parades an endless stream of horrors before us while introducing characters so likable you’ll never suspect any could be capable of violent acts. Just give it a minute… that will change!

Rigor Mortis, which originally screened for this reviewer at the New York City Asian Film Festival, rarely breaks away from its ultra quiet tone while exploring a haunted hallway, eavesdropping on a conversation between a married couple, or even revealing the steps of a black magic ritual. This is not to say the film is without any action, as we learn every monster can be fought with the right tools… and practiced kung fu moves. Looks down long hallways give a labyrinthian feel, assuring us that, even though the apartment complex is massive, everyone within it may be hopelessly lost. This element, coupled with that nerve-wracking silence, helps to build tension as the crack of a pebble on stone can echo down a stairwell and so possibly originated from everywhere and nowhere at once.

As counterpoint, the occasional explosion of action is enough to knock you back into your chair. This one-two punch makes the film a unique entry into the haunted location genre, as it isn’t necessarily trying to slowly creep up on you, but rather wow you with supernatural spectacle generated by top-notch CGI artists and a director who has surely done his homework on what visual elements will send a chill up your spine. No jump scares, no dark figure just around the corner, and no visitors creeping under the bed while we sleep. The monsters of Rigor Mortis, in a way, are meant to feel as real as we are as they walk right up to you and make their intentions clear.

With comic book-like sensibilities, Rigor Mortis rolls out a complete mini-universe within these walls, suggesting there is a story to be told behind every door. With a skillful eye for lavish imagery, the filmmakers create amazing visuals that could easily double as art prints accompanied by ghostly tales. The use of blues and greys dominates the palette to such an extent that, when red enters the scheme, it nearly vibrates out of the shots, making a newly formed pool of blood all the more impactful. So we’ve got an incredible artist’s touch enhancing refreshingly new monster imagery accompanied by stellar martial arts battle as forces meet and inevitably clash, all wrapped up in a story so fantastically odd it would make the entire cast of “Kingdom Hospital” stand up and start the slow clap.

Rigor Mortis is an incredibly fun haunted house film that is sure to spark inspiration across all points of horror creation as it pushes conventions and breaks out of a mold we may have thought represented the furthest this genre could go. Fans who have been following Asian horror cinema for years will have plenty to gush over as the film nods to their favorite creeps while your everyday horror fan will be dragging friends home for repeated viewings much like fans of comic book-inspired films do with Brotherhood of the Wolf. Grab your friends and see this film!

Special Features

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    Film:

    4 out of 5

    Special Features:

    1/2 out of 5

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    Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View

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    Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly

    Directed by Marcel Sarmiento


    Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as

    17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?

    What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.

    • Film
    2.0

    Summary

    Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?

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    IAMX’s Alive in New Light Review – A Dark, Hypnotic, and Stunning Musical Endeavor

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    Recording eight albums is an achievement no matter the artist, group, or band. This is especially true for Chris Corner’s IAMX, his solo project after the trip hop group Sneaker Pimps, which has enchanted listeners since 2004’s Kiss + Swallow with its dark electronic aesthetic. There’s something fascinating about the music Corner puts out as IAMX. Perhaps it’s the underlying melancholy that seems to pervade the music, almost certainly a result of the musician’s battle with depression and chronic insomnia [Source]. Perhaps it’s the unexpected melodies that reveal themselves with each new measure. Whatever it is, IAMX’s music is a constant delight.

    On Alive in New Light, Corner reveals that his eighth album was a product he created as a way of “…breaking free from demons that have long plagued him,” per an official press release. Strangely enough, this uplifting attitude may easily be overlooked but repeat listens unveil a sense of hope and wonder that are simply breathtaking. The title track echoes with almost angelic choir pads that positively shine as Corner exultingly cries in a shimmering falsetto, “I’m alive in new light!” This comes after the Depeche Mode-esque “Stardust”, which offers the first collaboration with Kat Von D, whose pure voice is a beautiful addition to the pulsating track.

    The third track, “Break The Chains”, has an opening that immediately called to mind Birds of Tokyo’s “Discoloured”, which is meant as a compliment. It’s followed by the Nine Inch Nails influenced “Body Politics”, which meshes Corner’s crooning vocals with a 90’s industrial backdrop. “Exit” has an almost sinister progression lurking in the background that builds to an aggressive, in-your-face third act. The cinematic Middle Eastern flairs of “Stalker” mutate effortlessly into a heartbeat pulse that features back-and-forth vocals between Corner and Von D. The haunted circus vibe that permeates through “Big Man” is mirrored by its playful gothic aura, ghostly “oohs” and “aahs” sprinkled carefully here and there.

    While the album has been a delight up to this point, it’s the final two tracks that took my breath away and left me stunned. “Mile Deep Hollow” builds layer after layer while Corner passionately cries out, “So thank you/you need to know/that you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow/and I love you/you brought me home/because you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow.” The way the song’s melodies back these wonderfully uplifting lyrics feels grand and epic, as though a journey is coming to an end, which is where “The Power and the Glory” comes in. Far more subdued, it’s a beautiful song that feels almost like a religious experience, a hymn of a soul that is desperate to claw its way to salvation and escape a life of pain and darkness.

    What makes Alive in New Light so wonderful is how much there is to experience. I got the album and listened to it no less than five times in a row without pause. I simply couldn’t turn it off because each return revealed something new in the music. Corner also makes fantastic use of Von D’s vocals, carefully placing them so as to make them a treat and not a commonplace certainty.

    While some may be disappointed that there are only nine tracks, each of the songs is carefully and meticulously crafted to be as powerful and meaningful as possible. It really is a stunning accomplishment and I’m nothing short of blown away by how masterfully Alive in New Light plays out.

    • Alive in New Light
    5.0

    Summary

    IAMX’s Alive in New Light is a triumph of music. Full of beauty and confidence, it doesn’t forget the foundation that fans have come to know and love for over a decade but instead embraces that comfortable darkness with open arms. Corner states that this album was a way to break free from his demons. It certainly feels like he’s made peace with them.

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    The Hatred Review – A History Lesson Dug Up From The Depths Of Hell

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    Starring Zelda Adams, Lulu Adams, John Law

    Directed by John Law


    I don’t know about the scholastic interests the masses had (or have) that read all of the killer nuggets that get cranked out on this site, but when I was an academic turd, one of my true passions was history, and it was one of the only subjects that managed to hold my interest, and when the opportunity arose to check out John Law’s ultra-nightmarish feature, The Hatred – I was ready to crack the books once again.

    The setting is the Blackfoot Territory in the late 1800s, and the pains of a lengthy conflict have taken their toll on the remaining soldiers as food has become scarce, and the film picks up with soldiers on the march in the brutal cold and snow covered mountainside. In tow is a P.O.W. (Law), and the decision is made by the soldiers to execute him in earnest instead of having to shorten their rations by feeding him, so he is then hung (pretty harshly done), and left to rot as the uniformed men trudge along. A short time later the group encounters a small family on the fringes of the territory, and when the demands for food are rebuked, the slaughter is on and the only survivor is a young girl (Adams) who prays to an oblivious god that she can one day reap the seeds of revenge upon those who’ve murdered her family. We all know that there are usually two sides to any story, and when the good ear isn’t listening, the evil one turns its direction towards those who need it most, and that’s when the Devil obliges.

    The answer to the young girl’s prayers comes in the resurrection of the prisoner that was hung a short time ago, and he has been dubbed “Vengeance” – together their goal will be achieved by harshly dishing out some retribution, and the way it’s presented is drawn-out, almost like you’re strapped into the front-row pew of a hellfire-cathedral and force-fed the sermon of an evil voice from the South side of the tracks. It’s vicious and beautiful all at once, Law’s direction gives this visually-striking presentation all the bells and whistles to please even the harshest of critics (hell, you’re reading the words of one right now). The performances, while a bit stoic in nature, still convey that overall perception of a wrong that demands to be righted, no matter how morally mishandled it might be. Overall, I can absolutely recommend The Hatred for not only those wanting a period-piece with ferocious-artistry, but for others who continue to pray with no response, and are curious to see what the other side can offer.

    • Film
    3.5

    Summary

    The Hatred is a visually-appealing look into the eyes of animus, and all of the beauty of returning the harm to those who have awarded it to others.

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