Did you know that Haw Par Villa is actually operational? My editor didn’t, haw haw, and it seems that she isn’t the only one! If you were born in the 70’s or 80’s, a day trip to Haw Par Villa would have been unforgettable (to put it in an understated way). The ostensibly “educational” theme park features more than 1,000 statues in a series of tableaux depicting Chinese myths and legends, with the most nightmarish highlight being a visceral re-creation of the 10 Courts of Hell.

I’d explain what the 10 Courts of Hell is but the name pretty much speaks for itself. I mean, really. Come on. Ten levels of Hell, each one more horrifying than the previous one, all showing you the afterworldly punishments that await sinners of all types.

We had forgotten about Haw Par Villa sometime in the late 1990’s, then we caught ourselves blinking in disbelief when we saw it on the silver screen! You see, Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds shares some shocking similarities with the oriental-style park. In fact, it’s just like a Korean cinematic tour of Haw Par Villa, because you get to see:

 

1. Supernatural folk wielding supernatural weapons

Crazy creatures with crazy weapons. Credits: Golden Village Cinemas & Bandwagon

Crazy creatures with crazy weapons. Credits: Golden Village Cinemas & Bandwagon

The wonderful thing about the supernatural is that weapons don’t have to make sense. I mean, we’ve all quibbled about the feasibility of cross-hilt lightsabers because “real” people wield those weapons. But in the supernatural world, you can explain away weird and wonderful weapons by attributing it to magic. The weapons are magical. The spirits have magical powers. It all makes sense.

Seeing all those insane weapons also led us to some strange conclusions about the type of Asians we saw there, because you see more than your fair share of:

 

2. Geriatric Asian men with lush beards

Old Asian dudes with extremely long facial hair. Credits: Golden Village Cinemas & Hype & Stuff

Old Asian dudes with extremely lush facial hair. Credits: Golden Village Cinemas & Hype & Stuff

If you’re East Asian, you’ll find it extremely difficult to grow any decent amount of facial hair – and if you can, I hate you. Honestly, the real reason most men shave is because our stubble looks prepubescent if we let it grow out.

So it’s amazing to see so many old men with long beards everywhere. Okay, maybe you can say their beards are magical, but look at the amount of styling and maintenance that goes into them! How long do these old guys spend in front of a mirror grooming their beards? If you really let a beard grow out, it’d look like a wrinkly crooked bush, not a mane of magnificence.

 

3. Imposing gateways to other dimensions

Supernatural guards and entrances. Credits: Golden Village Cinemas & The Culture Trip

Supernatural guards and entrances. Credits: Golden Village Cinemas & The Culture Trip

Hell also seems to be heavily guarded by supernatural creatures in Haw Par Villa… which is one of the strangest celestial (or is it infernal) decisions ever. Who would want to voluntarily enter Hell? But once you’re in, the creatures or spirits that “work” there won’t ever want you to break out, out of pure spite, just like those two above in Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds.

Oh wait, is that the real reason why those guards are there?

 

4. Lost souls

Lost souls. Credits: Golden Village Cinemas & The Singapore Circle Line Tour

Lost souls. Credits: Golden Village Cinemas & The Singapore Circle Line Tour

It’s understandable to see all the spirits with unfinished business in the film and the theme park. But the queues always look long and inefficient. I mean, Hell’s been around for eternity. Wouldn’t they have come up with some sort of standard operating procedure to handle the influx of the dead? Why do they still behave as if, well, they were built in ancient times?

They have magic. Magic. They could magic up some sort of ticketing system that would make the administration of handling dead people so much faster. Instead, it’s still manual queues and unhappy customers. Then again, nobody is really happy to be dead, I suppose…

 

5. Tongues being cut off

Even your tongue is at risk in Hell. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas & Expatior

Even your tongue is at risk in Hell. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas & Expatior

There’s also this obsession with chopping off tongues in both Hells as punishment for lying, since it means that the person “misused” his or her tongue in life. Haw Par Villa has this horribly graphic diorama (complete with copious blood and a dismembered tongue) where a poor soul loses his tongue this way, while the recently deceased hero of Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds has to face the prospect of this gruesome punishment.

Does his tongue survive? We’re not telling.

 

6. Water

Hell is... watery. Credit: Times of My Life and Golden Village Cinemas

Hell is… watery. Credit: Times of My Life and Golden Village Cinemas

And finally, there’s this obsession with travelling on water in Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds and Haw Par Villa – but no air craft, for some reason. In fact, there were TWO water rides in Haw Par Villa. They are now defunct. But back in the day, you had to go on water if you wanted to view the spotlight exhibition we’ve been raving about in this article. Do you remember taking the slowest boat ride ever, through the 10 Courts of Hell exhibit conveniently situated in the belly of an open-mouthed dragon? Do you remember queuing for the water flume thrill ride which culminated in splashing down two water slides, one tall and one short? It’s like that in the movie as well. So weird how transport doesn’t seem to catch up with the times in the supernatural realm. We’re mere mortals, but we invented airplanes! Surely the Chinese and Korean supernatural worlds could have added magic to it and made it better in the afterlife.

 

Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

If you miss Haw Par Villa (and with the recent rainy weather, outdoor trips may not be a good idea) and the now-defunct water flume ride, then your next best way of revisiting it is catching Along With the Gods: The Two Worlds. This Korean supernatural fantasy drama sees unfortunate firefighter Ja-hong (Cha Tae-hyun) literally facing trials and tribulations after his death. The problem is, his eternal fate depends on the outcome of these trials, so if he proves himself less than worthy…

It’ll be like living in the 10 Courts of Hell in Haw Par Villa. Except he won’t be living, and it’ll be forever.

 

 

Credits: Times of My LifeThe Singapore Circle Line Tour, Hype & Stuff, Bandwagon, The Culture Trip, Golden Village Cinemas , Infopedia, GhettoSingapore.com, Expatior