Saturday, October 08, 2011

Tolong! Awek Aku Pontianak – review

Director: James Lee

Release date: 2011

Contains spoilers

Translated it means, ‘Help! My Girlfriend is a Vampire’ and this 2011 Malaysian film uses the myth of the Pontianak to create a romantic comedy that, in a strange old way, owes a very tiny debt to Shaun of the Dead.

What I did find was that knowing a little of the Pontianak myth in advance is useful – there is little exposition of the mythology within the film, with an assumption that you’d already know. There was one piece of lore within that I found confusing.

Ina the Pontianak
It starts with a scene above a city and in a sports car sit Bob (Zahiril Adzim) and his girlfriend Ina (Faezah Elai). He has just received a big promotion at work and opens up a ring box containing a garishly large stoned engagement ring. He asks her to marry him and she says yes. As he slips the ring upon her finger her hand becomes haired with black nails and she reveals herself to be Pontianak. He awakens with a start.

Red Cornetto, borrowed from Shawn?
He sits with his friend and roommate Pian (Sufian Mohamed), who is playing on a playstation and picks up a controller and joins in. Given Pian doesn’t work you can see the Shaun of the Dead nod, I hope, but there is another little moment later. It seems Bob has regular dreams where Ina turns into a Pontianak. He goes to pick her up from work but is late, due to car troubles, and breaks down forcing her to get a cab. Later that evening they go for a meal where, long story short, he proposes and she dumps him (with Pian hanging around nearby). She calls up new fella Eddy (Jehan Miskin) who leaves the friends with a black eye each. Pian buys an ice lolly for Bob and gets a cornetto type one himself – the other Shaun of the Dead reference, which features red wrapped cornettos in it and blue cornettos in sister film Hot Fuzz.

co-workers together
Bob is a nice guy but a doormat. He and his team at the advertising agency where he works are put upon by their bosses, given rubbish jobs and the bosses take all credit from them. He bought his tired car as Ina disliked his moped and he moved to an apartment he couldn’t afford because she preferred the area. He decides to move to an apartment more in his price range and, as well as the area being home to a lot of immigrants – this indicates that there might be an issue in Malaysia with the perception of immigration but, to a man, all the immigrants we meet seem really nice – the apartment is allegedly haunted. Once they have moved in they meet their neighbours, sisters Maya (Sazzy Falak) and Liyana (Liyana Jasmay).

the evil Pontianak
Bob and Maya start getting close but the sisters are Pontianak. Actually they are good Pontianak, who do not feed from humans and are trying to find a cure for their curse. Their other sister Nadia (Nurul Wahab), who comes into the story later, is a bad Pontianak who feasts on humans. Of course Bob’s bosses and Pian discover the truth and try to save Bob, whilst Maya has a massively positive influence on him, making him take the respect he is owed.

Maya in pontianak form
Lore wise, as I said, it is taken for granted that you will know certain things about Pontianak. They can fly and change shape. They reveal their true form when they remove the nail from their head/hair – this point wasn’t clear. Maya’s nail seems to be in her head, whilst Nadia's seems to be through her hair, like a pin. Traditionally a nail in the head can be used to restrict a Pontianak’s power and turn her into a beautiful woman. However, a nail in the head of an evil Pontianak, in this, will kill it. This was a little confused and could have done with explanation in dialogue.

Sazzy Falak as Maya
The sisters have been cursed and they discover that the way to break the curse, and thus return them to mortal form, is through true love.

This wasn’t bad but it was light weight all told. The comedy was okay but not, for me, laugh out loud funny but Zahiril Adzim made a good, geeky lead. The film did, incidentally, contrast Malay and Western vampires, in passing.

5 out of 10.

At the time of review there is no imdb page.

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