Almost every Singaporean has grown up with some knowledge of the quintessential, toe-curling, blood-curdling Pontianak tale. We can all attribute these nuggets of wisdom to a diet of Russell Lee's True Singapore Ghost Stories that we consumed with gleeful relish as students.
When one speaks of Pontianaks, an image of a lady with long, black hair and white robes inadvertently comes to mind. She has hauntingly piercing eyes, and a glorious blood red lip, stunning enough to put her in the running for a cosmetic advertisement.
For the uninitiated, the Pontianak is a female vampire ghost who is said to be the spirit of a woman who died while pregnant. She is beautiful with a beguiling smile, charming enough to captivate her (mostly) male victims.
Here comes the caveat: after they fall hopelessly under her spell, the Pontianak then kills her victims by digging into their stomach with her sharp fingernails and devouring their body organs. Indigestion and graphic details aside, what better way to commemorate the hungry ghost festival than to kick start with a horror film?
Acclaimed Singaporean director Glen Goei's latest film Revenge of the Pontianak, produced by Tiger Tiger Pictures, will premiere in Singapore cinemas on Aug 29.
The release marks Goei’s long-awaited return to the cinema, a decade after his previous production, the 2009 murder mystery The Blue Mansion. A modern interpretation of the classic Southeast Asian Pontianak folklore legend, Revenge of the Pontianak is a horror story with a romantic twist, seeking to humanise one of Southeast Asia’s most revered horror icons.
Co-directed by Malaysian actor and director Gavin Yap, Revenge of the Pontianak features a stellar lineup of some of the most popular and most respected actors from Singapore and Malaysia, including Nur Fazura, playing the titular role of the Pontianak, and Remy Ishak, paired as her on-screen lover for the first time.
Other actors include Singapore actors Shenty Feliziana and Hisyam Hamid. The theme song for Revenge of the Pontianak is sung by Dato’ Sri Siti Nurhaliza, with a haunting music video starring Siti Nurhaliza accompanying the film’s release.
Portrayed on a unique Asian canvas, global audiences will be introduced to a completely new and intelligent take on the female vampire horror genre. With Revenge of the Pontianak, Goei and Yap pay homage to classical horror, but with a revisionist and contemporary spin.
On the inspiration behind Revenge of the Pontianak, Goei remarks, “With this film, I was heavily inspired by the look and feel of film classics from the ‘50s and ‘60s. Revenge of the Pontianak incorporates deep, saturated colours iconic of the period to give a more nostalgic feel to the film. Just because it is a horror film does not mean it cannot be beautiful.”
“An intentional deviation from past Pontianak films, I chose to tell the story from the perspective of the Pontianak for a change. You see and understand the motivations behind the actions of the monster,” he added.
Difficult as it may be for a horror film to engage in artistic representations of gore, Revenge of the Pontianak has successfully traversed this rocky precipice.
An intelligent horror film with a focus on aesthetics and narrative rather than relying on run-of-the-mill, cheap jump and scare tactics sounds like just the thing we need to watch this weekend.