Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
The Stars: John Cheng, Wang Lei, Chua Enlai, Dennis Chew, David Bala, Mark Lee, Henry Thia
The Story: Like 2009’s Where Got Ghost?, this Jack Neo-executive-produced horror-comedy (or hor-medy as the pun-happy promoters have dubbed it) comprises two separate components: The Day Off and The Ghost Bride, helmed respectively by long-time Neo associates Boris Boo (PCK The Movie) and funnyman Mark Lee – making his directorial debut.
The former is about two middle-aged men (Cheng, Wang) participating in reservist training in an eerie forest and playing ghostly pranks to frighten their on-the-ball superiors (David Bala, Chua Enlai); the latter is about an incorrigible gambler (Thia) who is goaded on by a dubious new friend (Lee) to ‘borrow’ good luck from the dead in order to guarantee winnings.
The Buzz: In an unofficial follow-up to the Forest Got Ghost segment of Where Got Ghost?, Cheng and Wang reprise their roles as crude slacker reservists who tempt fate by constantly making inauspicious comments about the supernatural, and playing pranks in poor taste, while in a spooky forest.
Meanwhile, for his segment, Lee works both sides of the camera, warming the director’s chair as well as acting opposite Thia, his trusty comic companion of many years.
While the listed directors are Boo and Lee, the looming presence of Neo as the executive producer (wink wink) means that the tone and style of this film is still very much from the Neo ‘school’ of film-making.
The omnibus film’s identity is distinctly Singaporean, skewing heavy on the ‘Channel 8’ side of things as expected, and relies on cultural stereotypes, superstitions, and broad, low-brow comedy to woo audiences. Those who turn up will likely know what is coming.
Of the two parts, the former definitely contains more genuine scares, even as it mines familiar material with some measure of success. The association of military training with haunted forests has long been the fodder of campfire ghost stories and urban legends.
Boo’s short depends heavily on the chemistry between Cheng and Wang, who are wholly believable as loutish army veterans with little interest in carrying out orders, especially since this is their final in-camp training. For the most part, the pair deliver big laughs.
On the flip side, the wafer-thin Chua and Chew characters are the weakest links, yet they are responsible for one memorable exchange of dark humour.
As for the estimable David Bala, who has been a good sport for being the butt of borderline racist jokes in a series of Neo’s films now, he could have been that much more effective if he didn’t pander to the ‘rapid-fire mumbling incomprehensibly in Tamil’ shtick asked of him.
Meanwhile, Lee and Thia combine for a somewhat less effective second short, which hinges on a major twist that opens up comic possibilities not properly cashed in. The ensuing jokes, including a tired gender-bending turn, are laboured and corny.
As is typical of Neo’s films, both shorts feature cheap-looking special effects that are more convenient than compelling. In the end, their combination into one feature is curious and clumsy, making for an uneasy mix of horror and comedy that loses steam way before the end.