Zombies and national service in sunny Singapura? If we can have pontianak, zombies sound about right. Zombiepura is the culmination of seven years of blood, sweat, and tears (and we daresay some tasty human brains as well), a zombie film where the undead rise up in an army camp because of a mysterious virus. Personally, we wonder what the Medical Officers (MOs) were doing when that happened. It just goes to show that soldiers need more MCs when they’re sick, lest a zombie outbreak occurs.

How did the cast and crew come up with the idea? If Zombiepura were to happen for real, would our Army be able to fend off a real zombie apocalypse? We interviewed stars Alaric Tay and Benjamin Heng, as well as director Jacen Tan to find out what they thought.

Here’s everything you wanted to know about Zombiepura (except the ending, of course, we’re not going to spoil the film for anyone)!

*Interview answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Jacen Tan, director of Zombiepura. Credit: Clover Films

Jacen Tan, director of Zombiepura. Credit: Clover Films

How did you come up with the idea for Zombiepura?

JacenZombiepura was inspired by my National Service days. I was doing guard duty, patrolling the camp at 2am, and I felt like a zombie. Also I thought, what if something really attacked us? Would I be able to fire my weapon and defend the camp? That was the genesis of the story.

It was always planned as a buddy movie between two very familiar and opposing characters you see in the army: One lazy chao keng soldier (played by Alaric Tay), and his siao-on tough commander (played by Benjamin Heng). Back in the day [editor’s note: seven years ago], the actors could have played full-time NSFs, but we changed their characters to reservists (NSmen) as the years went along. But this actually added to the theme and the story.

When it came to writing the film, I studied many buddy movies like Lethal Weapon and Pineapple Express to see how we could strengthen the characters and create interesting dynamics between them.


Lee Siao On (Benjamin Heng) and Tan Kayu (Alaric Tay) in Zombiepura. Credit: Clover Films

Lee Siao On (Benjamin Heng) and Tan Kayu (Alaric Tay) in Zombiepura. Credit: Clover Films

Tell us about the characters in Zombiepura.

Alaric: The character I play, Corporal Tan Kayu, is a slacker. He hates the army and thinks military service is a waste of time. He would rather be out in the real world earning money than holding a stupid rifle which he can’t fire. He’s also a pro-gamer, which allows him to think very unconventionally and out-of-the-box.

My real life character is quite the opposite actually. I’m usually quite intense and serious in real life, which many people find hard to reconcile, considering I usually portray whacky characters on screen.

Benjamin: The character I play, Sergeant Lee Siao On, is very on the ball. Does everything by the book.

I can relate to him for work. But life is short, I’m more chill when it comes to other stuff.


Challenging scenes in Zombiepura. Credit: Clover Films

Challenging scenes in Zombiepura. Credit: Clover Films

What were the challenges of shooting Zombiepura?

Jacen: The main challenges were raising money and finding support. When it came to shooting the film, one of the challenges was finding a suitable location. Everything here looks very new and clean and totally unsuitable for a place ravaged by a zombie apocalypse!

Alaric: Because zombies are new to the film industry here, it was a challenge to standardise the type of zombies we wanted to portray in the movie. We had to determine what the rules of the virus and the behaviour of the zombies were, as well as the look of the zombies and level of skin dilapidation.

Benjamin: Producing a film is tough in Singapore. Getting funding was tough, and so was getting partners to believe in the zombie genre too.


What's up in Zombiepura? Credit: Clover Films

What’s up in Zombiepura? Credit: Clover Films

Memorable moments in shooting Zombiepura?

Jacen: One of my favourite scenes was what we call the “Orcs marching to Mordor scene”, and in our case, we had zombie soldiers marching in camp. Of course we didn’t have thousands of extras, but when I shot that scene and saw it come alive, I knew it was gonna be in the trailer and the poster! Finally I thought: we were making a real movie.

Alaric: We took over an old power station for two weeks and made it our home. It was like attending a school camp.


The fighting force in Zombiepura. Credit: Clover Films

Favourite zombie and army-related movies?

Jacen: The original Night of the Living Dead by George Romero, and Israeli film Zero Motivation by Talya Lavie. The latter was made halfway around the world, about two female conscripted soldiers serving in the army, working as office clerks and trying to chao keng their way through! When I saw Zero Motivation, it reaffirmed the fact Singaporeans were not the only ones who could understand NS-related movies. (Editor’s note: Israel has mandatory national service, just like Singapore).

Alaric: I Am Legend and Saving Private Ryan.

Benjamin: Shaun of the Dead and Full Metal Jacket.


Singapore's finest in Zombiepura. Credit: Clover Films

Singapore’s finest in Zombiepura. Credit: Clover Films

Do you think the Singapore army could fend off a zombie attack?

Jacen: I think you need to ask them whether they have a plan for that. I’m also interested to find out.

Alaric: I think we have the capabilities to. Our chemical defence weaponry is actually quite state of the art. It’s probably just down to the tactical planning and the deployment of forces. But knowing how the SAF will always be triple prepared, I think if they have a heads up on the enemy, I believe they can do it.

Benjamin: Definitely! I believe the SAF spends a lot of money in improving themselves in every aspect and we are one of the better armed forces in the region, plus we have good backing from USA and Australia.


Surviving the zombie apocalypse in Zombiepura. Credit: Clover Films

Surviving the zombie apocalypse in Zombiepura. Credit: Clover Films

And the most important question of all – could you survive a zombie apocalypse?

Jacen: I reckon I’ll do pretty well, I have watched many zombie films and have learnt all the tactics to avoid zombies.

Alaric: I would like to think so. (laughs)

Benjamin: Very tough! I’m quite gu niang (Singlish for “behave like a girl”) when it comes to such things – I get freaked out very easily.


Zombiepura. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

Zombiepura. Credit: Golden Village Cinemas

Starring Joey Pink Lai, Chen Xiuhuan, Richard Low, Haresh Tilani, horror comedy Zombiepura is one of the most refreshing new film concepts to have come out in Singapore for a long, long while! Will our heroes survive a zombie virus outbreak when they find themselves stranded in an army camp? Or will Lee Siao On (Benjamin Heng) and Tan Kayu (Alaric Tay) end up at each other’s throats in the process?

Let’s hope they manage to save Singapore from zombies. Otherwise we might very well be known as Zombiepura in the future…


Credit: Clover Films, Golden Village Cinemas



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