- RatedNC16 /GenreHorror
The best thing about a horror anthology – aka a collection of spooky tales such as ‘Phobia’ and ‘Three’ – is that you get to pick the segments you like.
Is it the one with the ghost in the swimming pool?
Nope. While there are shots of someone wearing a skimpy bikini, it is also quite ‘Incredible Tales’ predictable.
Or maybe it was that busybody girl (Melissa Faith Yeo), whose morbid curiosity about a suicide victim at her apartment block leads to her being plagued by a ceiling-crawling ghost?
Sorry, the mystery does kick, but the ending does not.
And how about that freaky one with terrified people trapped in a stalled elevator, or the gory one with the chopped-up woman from China whose body parts are thrown into a river?
Now, these two episodes gave some good chills.
The whole deal of Tony Kern’s ‘Afterimages’ is like a dim sum of creepy pickings and on the whole, despite the absence of one truly big scare, the movie delivers.
MADE IN SINGAPORE, PROUDLY
It not just delivers, it also puts the stamp of “Made in Singapore” right on the international horror map.
Not since Kelvin Tong’s ‘The Maid’ (2005) and Chai Yee Wei’s ‘Blood Ties’ (2009) have a horror film shown such an accomplished array of the tricks of the trade, from ‘Walking-Dead’ drowned corpse to underwater acrobatics to CGI-ed infernos to even making a hawker dish of lady’s fingers seem ghoulishly appetising.
Dismembered body parts of a woman in a river – sounds familiar?
Yes, because back in 2005, somebody in Singapore really cut up a China woman’s body and dumped it into the Kallang River.
Director Kern may be American, but he has hung around long enough on Singapore’s shores to know what spooks us in a native way.
Or at least in a partially personal, local-superstition manner.
You know, the way a horny westerner finds to his horror that ogling an Asian babe in a swimming pool might not be a great idea, as depicted in the first tale called ‘Ghost Pool Leg’ (there’s a bit of clever word play here), in a revenge-of-the-Sarong-Party-Girl sense.
In 2008, Kern chronicled our eerie Hungry Ghost tradition in the fascinating documentary, ‘A Month Of Hungry Ghosts’.
Next, he went shaky camera-Blair Witchy with ‘Haunted Changi’, a highly-spirited (pun fully intended) project in which the intrepid director went on his own to the supposedly haunted and abandoned Changi Hospital to capture footage in the evil dead of night.
So, Kern is not a newbie at delivering the quintessential Singapore horror story.
He conjures up his own version of burnt offerings here by pivoting a recurring premise of five international students burning paper effigies of movie cameras, to somehow get ready-made scare fare in return from the ashes of hell.
The set-up is quite movie-buff geeky, clumsy and lost in the scheme of things, but propelled by the film’s brisk pace and the cast reminding us and each other what they are doing.
It does move along without any big stumble.
Now, being a true westerner, Kern still does present things from a perspective that might seem refreshing to some, but disconcerting to others.
I mean, even the said China woman speaks pidgin English here.
My main peeve though is that the Singapore cops (played by Lim Kay Tong, Keagan Kang, Pamelyn Chee) refer to each other as “agent” instead of “Lee” or “Tan” or in familiar Singlish, “Seow eh, ho seh boh”.
Fortunately, in ‘Afterimages’, that dismembered-body story (called ‘Rekindling’); the girl in the elevator story (‘Skin Deep’) freaking out with needles stuck into her face (based on Malay charm needles called susuk), and Kern’s own witnessing of a suicide victim in Sinagpore – he even shot it at the same apartment block where that happened – gives this collection of spook tales a certain nearness, connection, and I dare say, authenticity for the audience.
You would realise that apart from doing his research and fine-tuning his craft, Kern appears to take care that his actors go full-blown at freaking out, too.
Vincent Tee in dreaded isolation as the frightened hubby in ‘Rekindling’ and Adeline Pang in a screaming crowd as the panicky woman in ‘Skin Deep’ provide such great contrasting moments of primal terror, you just wish that a better payoff or a great twist came at the end of their efforts.
Alas, they almost, but they don’t.
For that, we need to wait for what comes after ‘Afterimages’.
‘Afterimages’ is now showing in cinemas