The new thriller Rigor Mortis, out on home video this week, draws from a rich storehouse of scary stories. Pop star-actor-director Juno Mak pays homage to Chinese vampire movies of the 1980s, while adding his own fresh ingredients to the recipe.
The film follows Chin (played by Chin Siu Ho), a suicidal actor who is prevented from taking his own life soon after he moves into a decrepit old apartment building. Among his neighbors are a disturbed mother and her white-haired son. It turns out the building is haunted by evil spirits, and Chin will need the assistance of an exorcist named Chan (played by Chan Yau) to cast out the demons.
Rigor Mortis is a stylish, atmospheric and moody movie that is filled with wild imagery, as well as a breed of vampires that is completely different from anything produced by Hollywood. Here are five more examples of Chinese horror movies that are worth searching out.
Mr. Vampire (1985)
The most direct influence on Rigor Mortis, Ricky Lau's horror comedy featured a bloodthirsty hopping vampire who must be stopped by a Taoist priest; Chin Siu Ho plays one of his disciples.
A Chinese Ghost Story (1987)
Don't fall in love with a tree spirit! Unfortunately, tax collector Leslie Cheung falls prey to the charms of the lovely Joey Wong, a spirit who is bound to a tree monster with a very long tongue and, well, it just gets crazier from there in this massively entertaining love story/action thriller.
Inner Senses (2002)
Leslie Cheung again stars, this time as a psychiatrist who begins experiencing terrifying visions that lead him toward a complete breakdown. Sadly, the actor committed suicide just a few months after the movie was released, which lends additional layers of poignance to his riveting performance.
The Eye (2002)
Remade in 2008 with Jessica Alba, the original was directed by Danny and Oxide Pang, who are from Thailand. Nonetheless, the story is set in Hong Kong and follows a young blind woman who receives a cornea transplant. She's overjoyed to be able to see--but now she can see dead people, which is troubling, to say the least.
Three... Extremes (2004)
The anthology includes short films by Japanese director Takashi Miike and Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook. But the gem is Dumplings by Hong Kong's Fruit Chan, a deceptively creepy short about an aging actress desperate to reclaim her earlier glories. She visits a woman who makes dumplings that supposedly have rejuvenating ingredients, but discovers that there's a reason why the woman keeps her recipe secret.