Haunted your head lar ~ That Movie Blogger Fella

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Haunted your head lar

Haunted Changi
My rating:

I am a skeptic. Always have been, but particularly so after a few personal experiences with sleep paralysis. (Go ahead and read the Wikipedia article at that link; I bet it'll explain quite a few "true" ghost stories that you've heard.) It's not so much that I cannot brook any possibility of the existence of the supernatural - it's that I think most people are too quick to believe, when there are usually much more prosaic explanations for what they think are ghostly encounters. Such as physiological disorders. Or embellished accounts by superstitious people.

Or hucksters out to sell you something they made up. Like this movie.

A team of filmmakers, comprising director Andrew (Andrew Lau), producer Sheena (Sheena Chung), cameraman Audi (Audi Khalis) and sound engineer Farid (Farid Azlam), set out to make a documentary about Old Changi Hospital - said to be one of the most haunted places in the world. During WW2 it was a Japanese military base, and rumours abound of torture rooms, executions, and secret underground tunnels. During the course of several visits to the abandoned building - during both day and nighttime - a mysterious tragedy befell the team. This film purports to be their recovered footage.

Well, ain't this just the Singaporean Blair Witch Project then? Not only do the characters have the same names as their actors, they have an online marketing campaign - complete with Facebook pages for each character - doing its best to convince you that this story is, like, really real for real. Now, employing an 11-year-old marketing strategy that was widely exposed as a hoax isn't quite the brightest idea - but even that aside, the movie itself can't maintain its own illusion. It's edited - not just for pacing and clarity, but also to add hyperactive MTV-style camera tricks, in an annoying attempt to heighten the scary factor. Um, guys, the whole point of the "found footage" genre is that the film should just show the footage as it was found.

But frankly, the main thing that breaks suspension of disbelief is that it's not a very good movie. The plot simply isn't sufficiently fleshed out. Who are these filmmakers? Are they students working on a school project? Do they have a contract with Discovery Channel or something? What exactly is their documentary about? All they do is tramp around the place with camera rolling and "just see what happens." Why did they forget that it's called Old Changi Hospital? They found a former POW who was imprisoned there, why didn't they interview any former doctors, nurses or patients? (Oh, and about the POW - he starts talking about gruesome medical experiments, then the segment just suddenly fades out. And that's the last we ever hear about these experiments. I have no idea why this scene is there.)

Then Andrew says he met this Chinese national who's been squatting there, a girl named Xiao Juan. Which is an exasperatingly transparent setup whose payoff can be seen coming a mile away, and also makes the characters look like idiots for not seeing the same payoff. And then there's the bit in which the team is joined by a bunch of "Ghost Hunters". They bring along a kid who (badly) acts all possessed, then they freak out and vamoose. It wasn't scary, and it just ups the stupidity quotient. Honestly, there's just nothing believable about this movie, right down to its initial claim that Old Changi Hospital is said to be one of the world's most haunted places. How do you measure such things? Who said it?

Is it scary? Well, okay, it is - if you're shooting in a crumbling abandoned building at night, you'd have to work to make it not scary. But the spooks and the jump-scares just never add up to a solid story, and certainly don't make it a worthwhile movie. Now, I know the fact that I said I'm a skeptic earlier opens me up to accusations of being biased. I'm not. At all. The fact that I don't believe in ghosts and hauntings does not prevent me from enjoying a good ghostly horror movie; because, after all, fiction. But one of my pet peeves is how we, as a not-quite-truly-modern society, tend to accept what is clearly fiction as fact - how gullible people tend to be. This is why every other week, someone gets tricked into having sex with a bomoh or sinseh and/or cheated out of their life savings.

But I guess it wouldn't be fair to lump the makers of this movie in with frauds and criminals, or even to call them hucksters. I can accept that their pseudo-real ad campaign is just that, an ad campaign that hopes to get some viral attention for their little movie. Still, I can't help but think that the real reason why it's not very good is that it is a product of the same credulously superstitious mindset that it's marketed to. Look at Paranormal Activity, which fleshed out the rules of its supernatural milieu in simple yet effective strokes. (And it didn't need an "OMG it really happened!!" ad campaign either.) Haunted Changi doesn't bother to be as inventive - perhaps because they didn't want to contradict how ghosts and spirits and hauntings are really like. This is the society we live in, and those who pander to this gullibility will probably make good buck. But they ain't gonna make a good movie.

NEXT REVIEW: Rapunzel: A Tangled Tale
Expectations: I liked The Princess and the Frog, so, okay


Pure Raver said...

I tried this myself. I like the bit that there were no credits so I could just leave in the end. But meh. Everything does not work.

Still wondering when will the glory days of The Exorcist and Shutter really shine again. This coming from a guy who hates horror movies.

Pedopanda said...

dude watch hantu kak limah already..it will make ur stomach burst of laughing!