Monday, December 02, 2019

Revenge of the Pontianak – review

Directors: Glen Goei & Gavin Yap

Release date: 2019

Contains spoilers

As this hit its local Malay market it also appeared internationally on Netflix, which shows that the streaming service does do its part in opening a market for international films. What we get is a story of supernatural revenge but I’m not altogether sure that it hits the mark as it should.

This is a shame as this could have been a lush entry into the annals of Pontianak films – a creature that hasn’t yet flooded the vampire market and could do with a strong entry into filmographies.

Shenty Felizaina as Siti
The film opens with an intertitle that explains that if a woman dies whilst pregnant, or at the point of childbirth, and does not receive the correct funeral rites, then she will return as a vampire. The issues with the film then start with the opening scene, where we see a grove of trees at night and hear crying. We see a car with the doors open. It tries to set a scene but doesn’t reveal anything at all (as there is a mystery element to the film) and the grove feels like props rather than an actual grove. The scene needed to give us more, whilst maintaining the mystery’s integrity, and the atmosphere is frankly lacking.

However, the next scene detailing the wedding of Khalid (Remy Ishak) and Siti (Shenty Felizaina) was lush and beautifully photographed. Khalid has a son, Nik (Nik Harraz Danish), who perhaps feels distant from Siti and more could have been done with the relationship with his father (we get a little but it then takes the relationship as read) and a lot more with the relationship with Siti – perhaps building more resentment and then moving towards acceptance and even dependence.

Lady in Red
Khalid’s brother, Reza (Hisyam Hamid), is the best man (or equivalent) and he has arranged for old friend Rais (Tony Eusoff ) to visit for the wedding. During the celebration Rais sings a song for the couple, entering into a duet with wedding singer Ida (Nadia Aqilah), and during the party Rais seems to see a mysterious woman in red (Nur Fazura) at one point. He leaves with Ida but accidentally knocks her out as she smashes her head onto the dashboard when the woman in red appears in the road and he slams the breaks on. He is attacked by her.

Rais' left dead
The next day Siti and Khalid find blood on the outer deck of their house and then see Rais, pinned to the trunk of a tree and very dead, high above them. Local holy man Su'ut Din (Namron) blames Siti for the calamity, claiming she has brought a curse to the village. She hasn’t, not really, but is more the catalyst for the curse becoming apparent. The curse takes the form of a Pontianak and it isn’t really too much of a mystery as it is obviously Nik’s mother, Mina, who is seeking revenge. The film details what happened to her and why the men she attacks deserve everything they get. And this is the biggest issue – the mystery is no mystery at all.

the living dead
She doesn’t particularly act like a vampire either, though there is a claim that local children are becoming ill. This should have been explored in detail and a whole thread of her being a monster – even if she is a righteous monster – could have been explored. It wasn’t. It also means that she doesn’t do to much that might be described as actually vampiric. There is an indication of possession at one point.

the pontianak
There isn’t too much lore; we know how a vampire is created and it is killed with a (sacred, one guesses) nail to the neck. As well as a deeper exploration of lore this also needed more vampirism, more moral ambiguity and much more of a solid mystery, rather than going through the motions of a mystery and allowing the viewer to crack it very early in the film. It needed tension, more atmosphere and perhaps more gore. It isn’t all bad, but it certainly isn’t something to write home about and it could have been so much more. 4 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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