Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Maybe we tend to grade local films on a curve but when the current competition is the Phua Chu Kang movie (does horrifyingly bad count as horror?), it’s hard not get effusive about a genuinely well-crafted and well-acted piece of Singapura cinema like Haunted Changi.
The film attempts to add local flavour to the Found Footage mockumentary subgenre. It’s a style that seems to have found comfy little niche in horror filmmaking, and why not? It takes cinéma vérité to new neo-realistic peaks, which is perfect for immersing the audience into heightened terror.
The film even follows Blair Witch’s viral marketing footsteps with an aggressive online campaign that maintains that this documentary is very much real. I’m unconvinced that it’s exactly successful in that respect but hey, the canonical blog posts and Facebook updates are fun little add-ons for fans at least.
Haunted Changi revolves around a group of filmmakers, who set out to survey the lore and lure of Old Changi Hospital (OCH), a famously haunted locale to many Singaporeans. Led by sceptical director Andrew Lau, the team of producer/host Sheena Chung, cameraman Audi Khalis and sound engineer Farid Azlam soon start realise that the supernatural stories synonymous with OCH aren’t just stories.
The key to this storytelling style is the slow-burn. The first act has to be character-oriented and humorous enough to make you care while simultaneously asserting a sense of believability. The second act turns up the dial on foreshadowing and tension so much so that when plunged into the over the top scare-fest of the third-act, you’re too engrossed to distance yourself from the horror.
Haunted Changi pulls all of the above off brilliantly. The build up of momentum and apprehension is done incredibly well. The film paces out its scary moments very deliberately and is careful not to overdo it until the shaky-cam rollercoaster rush of the climax.
The adherence to verism in character dynamics is impressive. A lot of it can be put down to the top-notch camerawork and production but most of the plaudits should go to the four wonderful actors playing the intrepid crew.
The protagonists come off palpably natural and the dialogue is surprisingly authentic. Now this may be because the actors are essentially playing themselves and I strongly suspect that the dialogue is largely improvised (facsimiles of realistic Singlish is very hard to write). In any case, credit to casting appropriately adaptable actors and having the confidence to let them work within the broad strokes.
OCH no longer hold the mystique it once did and that’s because it’s become a local rite of passage to visit the place at night. It’s popularity seems like a detriment at first but come to think of it, it’s actually all the more remarkable that Haunted Changi is so good that it manages to instil that spooky aura to such an iconic location once again.
About Hidzir Junaini
Hidzir Junaini, is 23-years-old and a wealthy playboy billionaire by day and a caped crusader by night. Only one of those is true. He’s actually a freelance writer, blogger, full-time film buff and some-time socially awkward nerd. He also writes about music, restaurants and nightlife for MetroWize Asia.
Hidzir was the winner of the inaugural inSing Movie Lover contest that garnered over 1,000 participants. The Movie Lover contest is a search for a candidate who possesses outstanding passion for movies and a talent for writing engaging movie reviews.