Take Singapore’s favourite undead monster and the director of Singapore’s first commercial film released worldwide, and what do you get? A reimagining of a horror classic – Revenge of the Pontianak. Glen Goei, a National Youth Award recipient and director of films like Forever Fever and and The Blue Mansion, released his latest film about a pontianak to an adoring crowd at The Capitol on Tuesday (27 Aug).

The haunted village of Revenge of the Pontianak. Credit: Havas

The haunted village of Revenge of the Pontianak. Credit: Havas

For those who’ve been lucky enough to hear about (or see) a pontianak, she/it is said to arise when a woman dies pregnant or in childbirth, and isn’t given the proper funeral rites. The anger and hatred from the injustice of her death is what causes the corpse of the woman to return as an unholy horror, a pontianak who seeks revenge on the living by eating their entrails.

Pontianak films are not new in Singapore – in fact, they’ve been popular ever since 1957, when the classic Pontianak (1957) came out. Originally slated for a two week run, that horror film was so popular that it extended its run to two months, inspiring many other pontianak-themed films since. Revenge of the Pontianak is the latest Singaporean film to feature the demonic banshee in all her wretched glory – but with a twist.

The angry pontianak (Nur Fazura) in Revenge of the Pontianak. Credit: Havas

The angry pontianak (Nur Fazura) in Revenge of the Pontianak. Credit: Havas

The horror film features the revenge of a pontianak (Nur Fazura), who stalks newly-weds Khalid (Remy Ishak) and Siti (Shenty Feliziana) in a small Malay village in the 60’s. As the villagers scramble to figure out what the pontianak is after, family secrets are unearthed and the dark past of one of the characters come to light. Ultimately, though the pontianak’s motivation is surprisingly human.

Glen Goei and Nik Harraz Danish at the Revenge of the Pontianak gala premiere. Credit: Havas

Glen Goei and Nik Harraz Danish at the Revenge of the Pontianak gala premiere. Credit: Havas

That’s because Goei humanises the pontianak in Revenge of the Pontianak, turning her from a maniacal monster that’s out for blood into a sympathetic, even lonely creature who wants what every human craves – love. It’s this aspect of the film which makes it so different from other horror films, and the reason why the movie was so highly anticipated. In fact, the gala premiere of Revenge of the Pontianak met with such overwhelming response that the theatre was packed past its seating capacity, necessitating plastic chairs to accommodate its vast audience.

Long queues at the Revenge of the Pontianak gala premiere.

Long queues at the Revenge of the Pontianak gala premiere.

Snaking queues could be seen at Capitol Theatre, as guests from all walks of life attended the gala premiere at Capitol Theatre. The theatre’s rich heritage in Singapore’s cinematic history was the perfect place to screen Revenge of the Pontianak, which is a beautiful love letter to the pontianak films that have enthralled Singaporeans for decades.

Right: Gavin Yap, writer-director for Revenge of the Pontianak. Credit: Havas

Right: Gavin Yap, writer-director for Revenge of the Pontianak. Credit: Havas

So how did Revenge of the Pontianak come about? Gavin Yap, who directed and wrote the film alongside Glen Goei, explained that its inception stretched all the way back to 2014, thanks to a casual conversation between the pair.

“Yeah, 2014 was when Glen and I started talking about horror films, and he was telling me about the old black and white pontianak films they used to screen. It was quite a long development process, and it took a while before we finally started shooting the film in January and we wrapped in February last year,” said Yap.

Nur Fazura at the Revenge of the Pontianak gala premiere. Credit: Havas

Nur Fazura at the Revenge of the Pontianak gala premiere. Credit: Havas

The 24-day shoot was preceded by a three-month long pre-production period. Goei reportedly spent a year looking for his ideal cast for his film, and six months looking for the village where Revenge of the Pontianak is set. Set in Malaysia in 1965, the movie was filmed in a remote banana orchard located in Hulu Langat, Selangor, some 30 minutes from Kuala Lumpur by car.

The cast and crew take to the stage at the Revenge of the Pontianak gala premiere. Credit: Havas

The cast and crew take to the stage at the Revenge of the Pontianak gala premiere. Credit: Havas

The gala premiere saw the cast and crew taking to the red carpet in their finest wear – Nur Fazura, Nadiah M Din, Nadia Aqilah, Nik Harraz Danish, Hisyam Hamid, and writer-directors Glen Goei and Gavin Yap.

Siti K, of Meena and Cheena fame, hosted the event and gave a warm welcome to the cast and crew, before the film began.

Revenge of the Pontianak was a roller-coaster ride for audiences, who could be heard screaming their lungs out at the appearance of the pontianak – but also laughing at the more light-hearted portions of the film. Without giving away too much, it saw a fitting resolution for all the characters involved – even if it was a bittersweet ending for some. There was a rousing applause as the film came to a close, as the audience thanked the cast and crew for all their hard work.

The humanised pontianak (Nur Fazura) in Revenge of the Pontianak. Credit: Havas

The humanised pontianak (Nur Fazura) in Revenge of the Pontianak. Credit: Havas

Revenge of the Pontianak also stars legendary thespian Wan Hanafi Su as the wise village leader Penghulu, Nam Ron as ecccentric shaman Su’ut Din, and Tony Eusoff as Khalid’s old friend Rais. The PG-13 film debuts at all Golden Village cinemas this week, with Gold Class screenings available for those who want to relive their childhood experience of watching pontianak films.

The pontianak (Nur Fazura) when she was still a human in Revenge of the Pontianak. Credit: Havas

The pontianak (Nur Fazura) when she was still human in Revenge of the Pontianak. Credit: Havas

But if you want to find out the mystery behind the pontianak, you’ll have to catch Revenge of the Pontianak for yourself.

Revenge of the Pontianak. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

Revenge of the Pontianak. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

Credit: Havas, Golden Village Cinemas

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