Kelvin Tong claims – tongue in cheek – to have a ‘sadist’ in him. His track record seems to indicate that possibility.
He’s brought horror into the Singapore heartlands with his films The Maid (2005) and Men in White (2007), and he’s now bringing the action-thriller genre to the local cityscape with Kidnapper, opening in cinemas on 18 March.
Made by Tong’s production company Boku Films, with Scorpio East Pictures and Malaysia’s RAM Entertainment and PMP Entertainment onboard as producers, and distributed by Golden Village, it is a film whereby the director encouraged his actors to perform several action scenes themselves.
With no stuntmen or filmmaking tricks in sight, the main cast members Christopher Lee, Phyllis Quek, Malaysian radio personality Jack Lim, and 11-year-old Jerald Tan gamely took on all the physical challenges Tong posed them.
In one instance, when the kidnapper in question (Lim) threatens his victim (Tan) and throws him against a wall, it’s “a real HDB wall” said Tong, who so admired his actors’ gumption that he joked about a temptation to put a “no special effects!” appellation to the film.
There was another scene where Lim and Tan had to leap from the roof of one container to another, with no safety net.
By next year, the former journalist-turned-filmmaker with the penchant for scaring audiences and actors could himself be making a big leap in his career.
He might find himself standing at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival as a producer of the anticipated upcoming Korea-Singapore co-production, The Host 2, sequel to the 2006 monster hit by Bong Joon-ho.
At a media junket for Kidnapper on 10 March, the 37-year-old director told inSing.com that the planned collaboration announced last July is now at the “final scripting stage” and that it could very well start shooting in July.
It’s been a very “massive and elaborate contractual exercise, involving a lot of parties” that can hopefully be resolved in two months’ time, said Tong.
If everything works out as planned, this ground-breaking co-production could help thrust the Singapore film scene into the spotlight on arguably the biggest stage.
Of the lengthy contractual negotiations, Tong alluded to a language barrier between the two parties, and that many points of view have to be translated from Korean to English, and vice versa.
“We are trying to pull together two different film industries, two different sets of governments, two different sets of private investors with very different ideas on how equity works across different markets. It’s a very tedious process, but we’re optimistic.”
Tong has another development in his career to feel good about. According to him, a deal is being discussed for the remake rights to one of his films, reported by The Straits Times on 4 March as his 2008 horror-thriller Rule #1.
Calling this opportunity a ‘phenomenon’, Tong attributed the Hollywood link to his love for genre movies, those that explore specific themes such as horror or thriller.
“I think my work attracts a little bit of attention from outside (Singapore) because, fortunately I like genre films, and I think genre films translate well into remakes; in fact, I wouldn’t mind sharpening that edge even more.
“I mean why not, you know, ultimately you want your script to be seen by as many people as possible. If I get one of my idols in Hollywood to be in (a remake), I think I would go mad – I would be really happy.
“I don’t dream of going to Hollywood, I think that’s too much of a leap of imagination for myself. But if something I wrote gets me to Hollywood, I’ll die content.”