From terrifying pontianaks to laugh-a-minute comedies, local horror offers a bit of something for everyone.
While not as big here as in the West, Halloween has been embraced by Singapore’s youths over the years as both an excuse to have a good scare and to party.
However, the cancellation of popular events such as the Halloween Horror Nights has definitely dampened this year’s season of frights and fun.
Thankfully, Netflix Singapore made available a collection of local films earlier this year, including a few from the horror genre. So gather your friends and family (in groups of not more than five) and check out these four local horror films currently available on Netflix.
Directed by Kelvin Tong, 2005’s The Maid was a smash hit, shattering the horror genre’s box office record in Singapore.
Those looking for jump scares will probably be disappointed. However, those looking for a thoughtful, highly atmospheric horror film that will get under your skin will be in for a treat. With the film’s focus on Rosa, the eponymous maid from the Philippines, it gives an outsider’s view on the local tradition of the Hungry Ghost Festival.
It is through her view where what is ordinary and pedestrian for us becomes alien, intimidating and eerie – a fact that the film does an excellent job in translating through its otherworldly soundtrack and muted colours.
Plus, the scares only add up when Rosa’s fears and paranoia all turn out to be true as she uncovers the terrifying secrets of her employer’s family.
Way back when Singapore was still a part of Malaya during the 1950s, the island’s film industry saw its heyday with a massively popular film series based on the Pontianak mythology directed by pioneering local filmmaker BN Rao.
Almost six decades later, directors Glen Goei and Gavin Yap breathed new life to the age-old folklore with 2019’s Revenge of the Pontianak. The film presents a fresh take on the folklore by making the titular spirit more human, instead of having the demon just gliding around with knee-length hair.
While this angle does mean that Revenge of the Pontianak is light on scares, it does bring into attention just how gorgeous the film looks. Set in the kampungs of 1960s Malaysia, the film is both a love letter to the original series of films and the era with its elaborate set designs and gorgeous costumes.
All these make for a film that may be perfect for both the artsy and the scaredy-cats looking to join in on the Halloween fun without any resulting nightmares.
Veteran filmmaker Lee Thean-jeen (and television showrunner of the award-winning Code of Law) presents a whole new terrifying meaning to the phrase “raising children”.
Released in 2015, the horror film sees a mother, Jia En, struggle with the loss of her son. Desperate and in grief, she turns to the occult to bring her dead child back to life – which she does succeed, albeit not without horrifying consequences.
Through chilling sound effects and unsettling camera angles, Bring Back The Dead definitely looks the part of a solid horror film.
However, where its scares truly lie is with the depth of drama the film offers, making audiences care and be fearful for Jia En’s life as she struggles to survive against the supernatural while uncovering a horrific truth behind her child.
Who says celebrating Halloween has to be all scares and no fun? Directed by Boris Boo and Mark Lee, The Ghosts Must Be Crazy is a horror-comedy packed with the over-the-top humour synonymous with Jack Neo’s films.
The horror anthology is split into two stories, each deeply local for its very Singaporean contexts, situations and stereotypes. While each may chug along with beats that might initially seem cliche, both lighthearted supernatural tales surprise by concluding with savoury twists.
Starring a whos-who of local comedians on television, The Ghosts Must Be Crazy is definitely light on scares, but has more than a hearty portion of laughs, familiarity, and comfort – which could be something all Singaporeans might subconsciously yearn for during these uncertain times.
After all, The Ghosts Must Be Crazy is also where this scene was born, starring the late, beloved local actor David Bala.
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