We caught up with Paween Purijitpanya – director of ‘Body’ (2007), a horror movie set in a hospital – one of the five Thai horror films picked to become the scary trails in Spooktacular.
When you translate a horror film into an actual set for Spooktacular, what are the essential things needed to make it scary? The ghost in the movie? The look which people are familiar with? The atmosphere?
The experience of the visitors will be the first thing that I’m concerned with. Watching a movie is different from going to a “haunted” house or trail. So I need to create something to scare first. In this case, the sensation of being actually there. Then I look for recognisable elements of my film, ‘Body’. I try to create the familiarity and capture the theme of ‘Body’ which the visitors can link to because hopefully, many of them would’ve seen the film.
How do you decide which scenes to pick for the trail?
We choose the scenes that are the heart-stopping climax and creepy mini-climaxes. The scenes which people who’ve seen the movies remember most about. For ‘Body’ which involved a hospital, I’ve picked a morgue scene, a path with many dead bodies hanging about and a super-eerie one which would make you remember that the ghost in the show never ever went to a hairstylist to have her hair cut.
A prop from a trail
Why are you so fascinated by horror?
I love to scare people. I love to scare my friends and my parents at home. (laughs) I love to make horror movies because the scariest things are the most ordinary things. Whatever that’s near us in daily life, if we add an element of horror into it, it becomes terrifying. The nearer it is to us, the scarier it is. I mean, your mobile phone with a ghost in it would spook you, right? (laughs) That’s so fascinating. Every time I finish a horror film, I’d stand behind the audience at a screening to see if they are scared. When they scream, I feel so happy.
Do you yourself get scared easily?
Definitely yes. If it’s the real thing. I’m so chicken I can’t watch an actual accident caught on video or YouTube. No, I can’t watch that. But if it’s a movie, that’s okay. Then I’m the bravest guy in the world. (laughs)
Which is tougher? Scaring people on a Halloween trail or spooking them in a cinema hall?
They’re very different. Both have their difficulties. For the cinema, we need to make a good story first or the audience will lose interest. But in a haunted trail for Spooktacular, it’s vital that we create a great, lingering atmosphere. The most difficult thing is to make everybody going through the trail feel frightened at the same time. We have to nail down that fear factor. The sights, sounds, smells, special effects, sudden movements in the dark, everything have to be spot-on. And then that queasy feeling has to stay throughout. When you shoot a movie though, it’s just one time with the actors and then it’s done.
Now that you’ve worked on this Spooktacular set, have you taken anything from it for your next horror movie? Has it given you ideas?
Yes. Lot of ideas. Because there’s different kind of direction, different kind of method, different kind of tempo involved in spooking people right in front of you. That moment of freaking out from a real event – that’s what I’ve learnt. I can use that for my next film. We don’t have this kind of event in Thailand. Halloween isn’t very popular there. This is my first time staging such a trail. It’s my dream job because I’m a big fan of the theme-park type of fun.
Right now in America, the No. 1 horror director is James Wan of ‘The Conjuring’ who is from Malaysia. Do you wish to go to Hollywood to direct a horror film?
Haha. For now, I’m not thinking about going to Hollywood. I’m just thinking about how to make a good movie to scare people, that’s it. My job is done when the film is done. And if it’s possible for my films to break into the international market, I’d be a very lucky and happy man.
Is horror a universal thing? Is scaring people in Singapore different from scaring people in Thailand?
One thing I learn is that when I see my movie ‘Body’ and the segments I did in ‘4BIA (Phobia)’ and ‘Phobia 2’ go around the world, I realise that everybody gets scared in the same way. If you make a love film, that has its language, culture, customs and other things which are different from place to place. But being terrified? It’s the same everywhere. (laughs)
Are you going to be at Fort Siloso in Sentosa personally to witness the results of your “ghostly” handiwork? You wish to see the visitors completely terrified or happily entertained?
Sure. Absolutely, I’ll be there. I want them to feel both. Because this year’s Spooktacular is going to make you scared and make you laugh. Haha.
Sentosa Spooktacular | Date: 19, 25, 26, 31 October; 1, 2 November 2013 | Time: 7-11pm | Venue: Fort Siloso, Sentosa | Tickets: $66.60 | Website: www.spooktacular.com.sg