4BIA – Eerie, entertaining, delightful, scary

I’m delighted by my newfound courage to face and conquer a great nemesis that has plagued my life since the day I was old enough to understand the concept of fear.

For some reason I can’t adequately explain, I find myself suddenly no longer crippled by horror movies. The nights when I have to sleep with one eye open after watching a horror movie are over!

I was able to watch 4BIA with unreserved enjoyment after succeeding in psychoanalysing myself out of fear. Which is good, because 4BIA is as scary as it’s entertaining.

It’s a collection of four short films made by four illustrious Thai directors.

The story is that one of them latched upon an idea for a horror film, but realised that his material could only fill one short film, so he roped in three other directors to make a feature-length run with four short films.

I like that. It’s like watching episodes of The Twilight Zone. Each bite-sized tale is a surprise and leaves you with a sick feeling in your gut when it’s over.

Happiness

Director Yongyoot Thongkongtoon (The Iron Ladies; M.A.I.D.; Metrosexual) kicks the anthology off with this silent horror.

A pretty young lady is grounded in her grimy apartment thanks to a broken leg. She’s lonely and bored and shuffles on a clutch restlessly between her desk and bed.

Then, a mysterious stranger sends her an SMS requesting friendship. After some cursory hesitation, she texts him back. A peculiar friendship bordering on puppy love develops over the next few days.

Alas, she is alone, crippled and stuck in a small, claustrophic apartment. And she obviously didn’t heed the age-old parental advice to never talk to strangers.

Actress Maneerat Kham-uan delivers a noteworthy, essentially solo, performance which raises your hackles in preparation for the next few shorts.

Tit for Tat

This tale explores the subject of black magic via a bunch of rebellious teenagers facing expulsion from school after being caught with weed. An act of cruel vengeance directed at their tattertale results in an explosive series of unfortunate incidents.

This is director Paween Purikitpanya’s second foray into horror after a successful run of Body #19. Tit for Tat has been described as an action horror, but I would say the action comes more from the schizophrenic camera work and jump-cut editing than from the actual action in the story.

I felt like I was watching an extended MTV. The actors are all beautiful and glamorous (even when drenched in sweat and blood). The shots are visually exciting. The edits are quick and in your face. The lighting is often stark and contrasting. The pace sets your heart pounding from start till end.

Unsurprinsingly, I later read this on the 4BIA website.

Paween’s background in music video perfects his visual smoothness, and he shows his talent in winding up screen tension with such spooky efficiency. “I prefer my films to be like rides in an amusement part, instead of being objects in a museum,” he says.

I actually enjoyed the cinematography and editing more than I enjoyed the story itself.

In the Middle

The third film provides refreshing relief after you’ve been put on edge for an hour. In the Middle is touted as a “comedy horror”. However, despite that tag, and despite the laughter from the audience, this short is no less scary than the first two.

This is the story of four young men on a rafting and camping trip. Scaring each other with ghost stories, one of them jokes that if he were to die on the trip, he would come back and haunt the person sleeping in the middle.

What do you know, he drowns the next day, thus setting the scene for some horror buildup.

Banjong Pisanthanakun (Shutter; Alone) directs this with an equal balance of comedy and horror, which is no easy feat. I mean, how can you feel fear when you’re laughing? This film shows you how.

Last Fright

A flight attendant is assigned to be caretaker of the body of the Princess of Khurkistan, who has suffered a sudden death and has to be flown first class back to her home country.

The body is seated in the first row of the plane, which is eerily empty save for Pim, the beautiful flight attendant, and two pilots in the cockpit. Pim has to make sure that nothing happens to the body during the flight.

But who’s going to make sure that nothing happens to Pim?

Director Pakpoom Wongpoom (also Shutter; Alone) made this film after learning that the royal dead cannot be transported in coffins and have to be seated like regular living people, leading him to wonder what horror could happen on a plane with a dead body sitting around in plain sight.

Being the most visually frightening of the lot, this classic horror very nicely rounds up the anthology. In fact, it was so frightening that Sabrina and Pris ran off 10 minutes into the film and never came back.

Methinks the title is very apt.

I watched 4BIA at the Blog Aloud series by Golden Village, where we got to meet the four directors as well as two members of the cast.

Left to right:
Maneerat Kham-uan (Actress – Happiness)
Paween Purikitpanya (Director – Tit for Tat)
Parkpoom Wongpoon (Director – Last Fright)
Kantapat Permpoonpatcharasuk (Actor – In the Middle)
Banjong Pisanthanakun (Director – In the Middle)
Youngyooth Thongkonthun (Director – Happiness)

Director Paween Purikitpanya told the audience that if everyone likes their film, they would make a 4BIA 2.

Well, I would really love to see a sequel, so please support this film!

Money No Enough 2 made my makeup run

On my way to watch Jack Neo’s Money No Enough 2, I camwhored in the taxi.

Sometimes, I wonder what taxi drivers think about my camwhoring activities. I camwhore a lot in taxis because firstly, there is nothing else to do in there and I hate sitting around having nothing to do.

Secondly, I hardly have time to camwhore otherwise. Just the fact that I even take cabs show that I’m always running behind time. Otherwise, I would take bus/MRT to save money.

I can’t explain this facial expression.

Let’s just say that I went home and downloaded the photos and I saw this and I couldn’t remember what I was thinking when I shot this.

There was a kink in my fringe. I was trying to add a bit of a curl to my stupid stubborn straight hair with a hairdryer, but in my hurry, I made an angle instead of a curl.

Dumb hair.

So, the reason I’m talking about camwhoring in a taxi is because I didn’t camwhore at the cinema for the Blog Aloud movie event.

I know some readers get upset when I don’t post camwhore pics for them to criticise and insult.

The reason I didn’t camwhore at the cinema before the show started was because I thought I could do it after the show, together with all the bloggers attending the event with me.

The reason I didn’t camwhore after the show was because I had cried so much during the show that my makeup had all run away.

When I went up to say hi to director Jack Neo after the movie, it took him five seconds and a very close look to recognise me.

“Oh, it’s you!” he said, after studying my face for a while, trying to figure out whether I was human or ghost.

“Yes, your movie did this to my makeup,” I accused him.

“Good, good,” he said. “I’m glad you enjoyed it.”


I did, indeed, enjoy Money No Enough 2.

If you look past the product placements, slapstick jokes and sometimes cheesy CG, you’ll feel touched by the message that the movie wants to bring across, that love transcends money.

In a harsh, materialistic society such as ours, it’s hard to uphold the traditional values of love, loyalty and filial piety without sacrificing monetary happiness. Something has to give and the end result is often hard to swallow no matter what you choose.

I don’t think the movie answers any questions or offers any ready solutions (other than just try your best to do the right thing), but it makes us stop and consider what we truly value in life. I think that is a very powerful message.

The star of the show, to me, is undoubtedly veteran Malaysian actress Lai Ming.

She plays the long-suffering mother of three sons (played by Jack Neo himself, Mark Lee and Henry Thia).

I would even go as far to say that her performance deserves an Oscar, such was the extent to which she impressed me with the love and vulneribility that shone through her eyes with every word she said or didn’t say.

She was the reason my piece of tissue paper (very kindly sponsored by molemole, who noticed me rubbing my face with my hands halfway through the movie) got so wet I couldn’t find a dry spot left to dab my eyes by the end of the movie.

The melancholic Hokkien songs helped, too.

I love the Hokkien songs in Jack Neo movies. They’re always so sweet and poignant and nothing like the scary ones you hear at KTV pubs.

By the way, the movie is dominated by Hokkien because the director feels that it makes the movie more realistic. Also, he’s very afraid that, one day, knowledge of Hokkien will totally be wiped out in Singapore, therefore he feels the need to immortalise the language in his movies.

“Young people like to read subtitles, anyway,” he explained during the interaction session at the end of the movie, “So having a Hokkien-dominated movie doesn’t mean they won’t understand it.”

Money No Enough 2 could be shorter, in my opinion, because crying nonstop is really exhausting, not to mention embarrassing. Despite my most heroic efforts to quell the dam, the tears just freely flowed, as if someone had forgotten to turn off the tap.

It’s good, though.

I read somewhere that crying helps to remove toxins from your body so you get better skin after that.

Cool. Let’s call it a movie facial.

But if you’re going to do a movie facial, I recommend either doing it at home, or not wearing any makeup if you’re doing it outside.

Catch Money No Enough 2 at Golden Village cinemas. Support local movies… because you know it’s the right thing to do.

Free movie tickets for bloggers

I mentioned a few days ago that Golden Village is hosting a series of movie sessions called Blog Aloud, in which audiences get to interact with movie directors after the show.

I’ve got free tickets for upcoming sessions. If you’re a blogger and would like a ticket, please e-mail me your phone number and blog URL, and tell me which movie(s) you want to watch and whether you want one or two tickets.

Limited tickets, first come first serve!

Upcoming Blog Aloud movies (all are 7 pm slots):


Aug 5 GV Plaza Sing ***10 TICKETS FULLY REDEEMED***
Aug 6 GV Vivo City ***10 TICKETS FULLY REDEEMED***
Aug 7 GV Tampines***10 TICKETS FULLY REDEEMED***
Money No Enough 2
Meet director Jack Neo


Aug 11 ***10 TICKETS FULLY REDEEMED***
12 LOTUS
Meet director Royston Tan


Aug 14 ***10 TICKETS FULLY REDEEMED***
4BIA
Meet all four Thai directors

Ghosts are in the air… this month

I never used to know (or care) when the Hungry Ghost Month came unless someone specifically bugged me about it.

“Be careful when you go home tonight, there are ghosts wandering about.”

“Be careful in the toilet, don’t talk to anyone in there in case they’re a… you know…”

“Don’t look now, but I think there’s someone behind you…”

I hate you people. Go scare someone else.

I’d been scared to death of ghosts since watching The Ring in 1999, refusing thereafter to watch another horror film or listen to anymore ghost stories.

But the good news is that I kind of lost this irrational fear after (ironically) starring in a horror short film last year.

My director Jon made me watch several Japanese and Korean horror films for research and I survived those and the filming. I felt reborn after that. I could watch horror films again!

Otherwise, I would not have attended the screening of A Month of Hungry Ghosts last night.

I’m really glad I did now. The screening was part of the Golden Village Blog Aloud series, in which audiences get to interact with film directors and ask them questions about the film.

Of course, I only found out during the show that A Month of Hungry Ghosts isn’t exactly a horror film. It’s a documentary of the rituals and lives of very interesting individuals for whom the seventh lunar month is particularly significant.

There’s a touching account of a woman who has lost both parents and a son, so she religiously burns offerings for them every year.

There’s a young and pretty getai singer who’s been performing for spirits during the seventh month since she was six, whose parents have turned her getai singing career into a family business.

There’s an old wayang (Chinese opera) matron who relates anecdotes of her profession and her encounters with spirits during the seventh month.

The film crew also followed SPI investigators into sinister discoveries.

In the 99-minute documentary, you will be touched by the tales of these people and you will develop a new respect for this age-old Chinese tradition which you’ve always conveniently brushed off as a silly and annoying superstition.

One tale which particularly haunted me was of this woman who unknowingly placed her infant son on a table used to offer food to spirits duing the ghost month.

The next day, the baby’s body turned black and he died. Apparently, the spirits thought that her son was a sacrifice. Actual documented photos of this are shown in the film.

I cannot recommend this film enough.

I didn’t find it scary. Some parts are maybe kind of eerie, but I would use the words interesting, shocking, touching, delightful and inspiring to describe the film.

I was at first disappointed because I was expecting to be scared, since we were watching it on the first day of the Hungry Ghost Month, the day when the gates of hell are opened and all manner of spirits are allowed to roam our land among us uncontested.

But then, I was quickly drawn into the colourful narratives which revealed a wealth of information and surprises that my mind hungrily feasted on.

The Goonfather was simliary impressed and fixated on the film, although that didn’t stop him from trying to scare me halfway through.

There was a scene in which wayang and getai professionals explain why they always leave the front-row seats empty during performances.

The seats are for the “good brothers”, they say earnestly.

Apparently, if the seats aren’t kept empty, things always go awry during the performance.

At this point of time, the Goonfather leaned over to whisper to me, “The seats in the front row are empty. Got ‘good brothers’ watching the movie with us.”

I peered over at the front-row seats and shot back, “No lah! There’s one guy sitting on the leftmost seat in the first row.”

“Uh oh, I think got something sitting on him.”

Idiot.

At the end of the film, though, when director Tony Kern and producer Genevieve Woo came in to the theatre to take questions from the audience, they confirmed that they had indeed deliberately left the front row empty for the “good brothers”.

I wonder who’s the brave guy who sat on the corner seat.

The director also shared with us his encounter during a jungle excursion for a spirit-invitation ritual, where he almost got possesed by spirits. You can read about it in this TODAY report.

A Month of Hungry Ghosts doesn’t have the most polished cinematography and editing which you’d expect of a, say, Discovery Channel documentary, and the film starts off a bit sluggish as it establishes Singapore as a “world-class centre of business and culture” (as cited by the wiki page for this film).

Foreigners might find this of interest, but Singaporeans will probably be wondering when the scary stuff is going to happen.

But once the film is done with the expounding, you get taken on a surprise ride from which you won’t return the same.

A Month of Hungry Ghosts premieres at Golden Village on August 7.

Also, check out the Golden Village website to find out more about the Blog Aloud series. Next up is Money No Enough 2 from August 5 to 7. Watch the film before the official premiere and meet director Jack Neo to find out more about the making of his movie.

Today is the second day of the Hungry Ghost Month. There are 28 more days to go. Be mindful.