Turn it off or she’ll cut it off

My first encounter with Darah was the little trailer reminding cinema-goers to turn off their handphones.

The short features a psychotic person with long dishevelled hair, looking like a cross between a drag queen and a pontianak, screeching hysterically as she swings a blade at an off-screen victim.

Big red bloody words appear on screen:

TURN IT OFF OR
SHE’LL CUT IT OFF

I rolled my eyes when I first saw it. It was the epitome of cheesy. It gave me the impression that Darah was a B-grade comedy horror.

Weeks after I saw the trailer, I met with Eric Khoo and learnt that he’s the executive producer for the film. I was surprised and a little disturbed.

Subsequently, he invited me to a special Darah screening. He said it’s a good movie so I decided to suspend all expectations and believe him.

The screening was held at the old Thumper Bar at Goodwood Park Hotel, which is currently undergoing major renovations so it looks really grungy and creepy.

Darah screening

Darah screening

It was quite dark in there. I didn’t even realise while I was there that the projecter was sitting on a blood-stained sheet.

Darah screening

Yes, even though I took this photo. And even though I actually sat in the front row that night. I didn’t notice the blood-stained sheet until I went home and saw my photos.

I did notice this blood-stained sheet covering the entrance to the bar, though.

Darah screening

I’m not blind. Really.

That night, I learnt that the lead actress in Darah had won an award for the film, which made me more curious to watch it. It was hard for me to reconcile the comically-crazed pontianak in the cheesy phone trailer with award-winning.

Darah screening
Eric Khoo gives a short speech before the screening.

Well, now that I’ve seen it, I’m declaring that the film is so far from being B-grade that I would give it a few extra As for good measure.

AAAA.

Darah

Darah follows a group of six friends who stumble upon a damsel in distress in the middle of nowhere, while on a road trip. Being do-gooders, they offer to give her a ride home.

Home is a big old creepy house in the middle of a thick, isolated jungle.

What follows is a prolonged night of senseless slaughter, sometimes in explosive carnage, sometimes in exquisite detail. The plot is not particularly unique and realistic, but I like how the film was executed.

Darah

Let me first say that Darah is possibly the goriest movie I’ve seen (I don’t see too many of them, though). It’s not for the weak-stomached. The lady next to me had to cover her eyes half the time. Me, I was clutching onto my handbag and jacket too tightly for the whole 90 minutes, making valiant efforts to stifle my screams.

The suspense build-up and roller-coaster teasing are chilling and thrilling. The cinematography is dramatic and artistic enough to prevent the film from being simply a gratuitous bloodfest. There is a lot of blood in the film. More than you can bear.

The actors are all brilliant. I can’t understand why they didn’t all get awards. I also learnt that the makeup and special effects were done by just one person, which makes it inexpressibly remarkable.

Darah

As an objective critic, I really, really liked the film.

As a scaredy cat, I was totally pulverised.

Darah is an Indonesian film (with English subtitles) by newbie filmmakers Mo Brothers. It’s called Macabre in other parts of the world. I think it’s only called Darah (which means blood) in Singapore because they found that too many Singaporeans can’t pronounce or doesn’t know the meaning of macabre.

It’s rated M18.

Darah

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!

Overwhelmed by horror movies; Review of The Screen at Kamchanod

Will people stop making horror movies already!!

At Golden Village Marina Square last night, they were showing four horror films and one film with a cheesy title: Step Up 2 The Streets. What kind of a stupid selection is that?!

I picked one of the horror films. Better to risk traumatised sleepless nights than to suffer through a teen blockbuster wannabe.

Of course, we could have chosen not to watch a movie and just gone home. But I felt like watching a movie, okay? Even if it had to be horror.

For your general information, I hate horror films for the simple reason that I spook easily. It took me more than a year to get over The Ring. For the longest time, I couldn’t even look at the poster without breaking out in cold sweat.

So I’m a little more than annoyed that we’re now inundated with more horror film selections than I can deal with. It’s like, every corner I turn, I see a horror movie poster featuring a freaky giant eyeball staring at me.

In fact, some corners even turn up dead bodies.

Although I have to admit that the dead body displays admirable marketing finesse, I must say I don’t care too much for it. I really don’t want to see dead bodies every corner I turn, thankyouverymuch.

Oh, stop already!

I didn’t fancy getting further acquainted with Ms Dead Body with her parts scattered around in separate evidence bags, so I chose not to watch Rule #1.

I chose The Screen at Kamchanod because the synopsis engaged my curiosity. I do enjoy a good storytelling, if not a good scare.

But it was a mistake.

The Screen at Kamchanod is a stupid, stupid movie.

It’s based on an actual news report in 1987 of a group of outdoor film projectionists hired to screen a movie in a spooky Thailand forest. The unlucky chaps reported that there was no audience until the end of the screening, at which time a mysterious group of people drifted out of a clump of trees and stood in front of the giant screen. And then they vanished into thin air.

The speculation is that the movie was screened specially for ghosts. Fast forward to 2007, which is when the film starts. A doctor takes it upon himself to unravel the mystery of that news report, in the process exposing himself and his friends to supernatural calamities.

The premise sounds good but everything else is really bad. The plot is weak and uses flashback tactics to try to impress you and gain your attention but ends up confusing you, instead.

You also get a main cast of psycho characters whose motivations aren’t adequately explained, who all seem to have been written into the plot for the sole purpose of conveniently moving the story along to its insipid conclusion.

You’ll probably find yourself spending most of 96 minutes asking questions that never get answered satisfactorily.

“Why is this doctor so determined to solve this senseless mystery at all costs?”

“How did he so conveniently find all the clues and leads he needed?”

“What the hell is wrong with his girlfriend?”

Most of the acting is either really bad or maybe Thais generally talk that way, I’m not very sure. But the actors all look and sound like they’re reading lines off cue cards.

The scare tactics employed by the movie with clever combinations of editing, sound effects and camera placement are quite impressive the first five or so times.

But, by the 800th scare (half of which are false alarms), you’ll be ready to curse the director and editor for giving you heart attacks for no good reason. I would challenge anyone to find me a movie that has more scare scenes than The Screen, but then I would not actually recommend anyone to watch the movie in the first place.

The Screen tries to be literally scream-a-minute the way comedies try to be laugh-a-minute.

Well, we all understand laugh-a-minute. Everyone enjoys laughing. More is better in the case of laughs. But—honestly!—nobody wants to scream-a-minute! It’s not healthy and just plain stupid.

In fact, I was so annoyed by the unending stream of cheap scare tactics that I resolved not to be frightened by them at all. To my credit, I didn’t scream or jump a single time in the entire 96 minutes even though many scenes were actually quite scary. (I usually scream at the slightest provocation, even at non-horror movies and especially at cockroaches.)

Leading actress Pakkaramai Potranan is really pretty, which, to me, is the only saving grace of the movie. She’s a 30-year-old Thai singer/actress who has a website that takes literally forever to load (I quit waiting after 10 minutes).

To wrap it up, don’t watch this movie unless you’re one of those perverse types who enjoy watching bad movies just to laugh at how bad they are.

In the words of the Goonfather, “It’s a stupid show.”

Now, I’m hoping someone can tell me why there’s a sudden craze in horror movies right now. Not only did Golden Village slap horror posters in our faces at every junction, the cinema also chose to screen three horror movie trailers for us before our show started. Like, can you say horror overdose?

We didn’t even get a single non-horror trailer. Do these people (whoever they are) think that people who watch horror only like watching horror and can’t get enough of horror?

Next you know, some freakshow entrepreneur is going to build a horror cinema that specialises in screening horror movies in haunted-house settings. For a dollar extra, maybe, you can get real-life spook effects with your very own ghosts-in-attendance.

Wouldn’t you horror freaks like that?