Rigor Mortis Will Leave You Scared Stiff

Poster for Rigor MortisI have a special affinity for foreign horror, and so I got pretty excited when I started seeing trailers for Rigor Mortis. This Chinese movie definitely takes a different twist on the vampire!

The protagonist is a former actor who moves into an apartment building where typically only those with a much lower-class lifestyle live. The building is full of odd characters: the seamstress and her husband, the flashy guy who runs the nearby café, the security guard who knows everyone, and the homeless woman and her child who roam the halls. As soon as our protagonist moves in, it becomes clear that he is not planning on being there long. His suicide attempt is cut short by Mr. Flashy, and in doing so we find that his apartment is haunted by the spirits of two women. The spirits haunt the building, searching for a body to inhabit. And, a body is soon provided as the husband of the seamstress falls to his death on the concrete stairs. In her grief, the seamstress resorts to black magic to revive her husband, burying him in dirt in the bathtub, interring him in a coffin that hangs above the ground, and covering his face with a special, creepy metal mask, which she is instructed to never remove. From there, things start getting crazy, and our protagonist finds himself teaming up with a vampire hunter to save the day.

Picture of the protagonist in Rigor Mortis

This movie has some great visual effects, especially the two women spirits who are surrounded by numerous blood red tendrils, and who creep around on the walls and ceiling, while trying to find a body to possess. The cinematography is great – lots of dark, rich colors and noir lighting. There are also some interesting choreographed fight scenes, and some tools of the vampire hunting trade that are pretty cool. One of these allows the hunter to change reality within a certain area and cycles through the different Chinese elements: fire, water, and earth.

The twins in Rigor Mortis

I definitely enjoyed this movie. If you like foreign horror, especially movies that have a combination of action and horror, then you would probably enjoy Rigor Mortis.

R.I.P. Karen Black: A Favorite Actress in Horror Movies

Burnt Offerings movie poster

Photo from SlasherStudios

One of horror’s  most prolific actresses, Karen Black, has passed away at the age of 74. While the Washington Post article talks mainly about her mainstream work, the film that I most remember Black from is Burnt Offerings, one of those ’70s movies that I probably saw when I was a little too young to be watching it, and which has stayed with me since then. The movie was directed by Dan Curtis and also starred Burgess Meredith, Oliver Reed, and Bette Davis (playing Aunt Elizabeth, who had a really bad hand dealt to her).

At first, it seems like the family has scored big – they get to house sit a huge old mansion for the summer. There’s even a pool! All they have to do is promise to take care of the reclusive Mrs. Allardyce, who lives up on the top floor, and never moves away from her window, or talks to anyone, or seems to do much of anything. (Yeah, not weird at all – right?) However, soon things start happening that are pretty terrifying – especially where the pool is concerned – and then this creepy dude turns up in a big black car:

Creepy hearse driver

Photo from ScaryOldFilms.com

Needless to say, things do not turn out well for the family in the end. Lesson learned: if the housesitting job seems too good to be true, it probably is.


Trilogy of Terror African doll

Not too scary, right? (Photo from Examiner.com)

Black was also in another horrific, nightmare inducing movie from the same time period called Trilogy of Terror. Surprise, surprise, this was another Dan Curtis production (it is to this man I owe many of my childhood fears). While all three stories in this one are creepy in their own right, it was the last one, the one about the African doll, that always really got to me. They film part of the story from the doll’s perspective, as it is sneaking up on Black’s character, who had no idea that she is about to be attacked by a doll possessed by evil. The memory of that doll skittering around the rooms and mercilessly attacking the woman over and over again haunted me for years.

Fortunately for me, I have a perverse enjoyment at being haunted. In the years since I first saw both of these horror movies, I have watched them over and over again. I have discussed them with others, who have also been pleasantly haunted by them over the years. These were some of the first films that sent that tingle of terror up my spine, and they helped opened up the door to a genre that I have taken enjoyment from ever since. Thanks for the memories, Ms. Black.