Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Licence to Scare

Licence to Scare
By: Meor Shariman

Local Horror Movies Making Money


We love a good scare and are always fascinated with things that go bump in the night.

This fascination with the supernatural is universal - the reason why the horror genre is never out of date.

Producing the right horror flick means huge box-office returns. Even a poorly made horror movie can make lots of money if properly promoted. One good example was the recent low-budget Momok The Movie . It made RM2.1 million.


The History

The horror genre made a comeback in the Malaysian film industry in 2003 with Mistik, directed by Associate Professor Abdul Razak Mohaideen.

The film was a hit, but many viewers were unhappy with the ending which summarised the movie as a long dream sequence.

The National Censorship Board at that time was leery of supernatural elements in local movies.

The last local horror movie before Mistik was Aziz M. Osman's Fantasi in 1994.

Fantasi was banned by the board for a year. It was later passed for screening but was heavily censored. This deterred local producers from making scary flicks.

After Mistik, two low-budget horror films were made - Di Ambang Misteri and Makar (2004). Both tanked at the box-office.

Then came Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam (2004). The film made money but the ending, like Mistik, angered many viewers. It ended from the viewpoint of a delusional main character played by Rosyam Nor.

The film sparked a debate among filmmakers and government policymakers on who should "protect" the audience. In the end, the filmmakers prevailed with help from the media.


The New Era

Beginning with Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam 2 (2006), the board gave local filmmakers the freedom to make horror flicks, provided that they caution Muslim viewers from being influenced by such movies.

That "licence to scare" resulted in Gong (2006), Puaka Tebing Biru (2007), Chermin (2007) and Misteri Orang Minyak (2007).

But it took Jangan Pandang Belakang (2007), directed by Ahmad Idham Ahmad Nazri, to elevate the horror genre.

The film was the scariest local movie of the time as well as the most successful, grossing more than RM7 million in Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore.

It became the benchmark for local horror films and set a "high" standard to live up to, so much so that not even Ahmad Idham's follow-up - Congkak (2008) could match it.

Films such as Histeria (2008), Jangan Tegur (2009), Rasukan Ablasa (2009), Jin Hutan (2009) and Skrip 7707 (2009), tried to beat Jangan Pandang Belakang's "scare-o-meter" but to no avail.

Last Thursday, Santau was unleashed.

The film is based on a true story and those who've seen it may agree that it is the scariest local horror film ever made.

Directed by new director, Azahari Zain, Santau, a film about black magic, has set a new benchmark for the local horror film genre.

The Scary 10

Here's my personal list of Malaysia's 10 scariest movies.

1. Santau (2009), directed by Azahari Zain, starring Esma Daniel, Lisdawati and newcomer Putri Mardiana.

2. Jangan Pandang Belakang (2007) , directed by Ahmad Idham, starring Pierre Andre and Intan Ladyana.

3. Histeria (2008) directed by James Lee, starring Liyana Jasmay and Scha Al Yahya.

4. Jangan Tegur (2009) directed by Pierre Andre, starring Julia Ziegler and Ellie Suryati.

5. Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam (2004) directed by Datin Paduka Shuhaimi Baba, starring Maya Karin, Rusdi Ramli and Rosyam Nor.

6. Mistik (2003) directed by Associate Professor Abdul Razak Mohaideen, starring Rita Rudaini, Lisdawati and Cico Hararap.

7. Rahsia (1987) directed by Othman Hafsham, starring Shukery Hashim and Noor Kumalasari.

8. Congkak (2008) directed by Ahmad Idham, starring Nanu Baharuddin and Ruminah Sidik.

9. Puaka Tebing Biru (2007) directed by Osman Ali, starring Umie Aida, Sharifah Amani and Fahrin Ahmad.

10. Skrip 7707 (2009) directed by Associate Professor Abdul Razak Mohaideen, starring Fasha Sandha and Norman Abdul Halim.


Source: New Straits Times, December 12, 2009

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