The Maid (dir. Kelvin Tong, 2005) – A Filipino domestic worker arrives in Singapore during the seventh lunar month and soon begins to experience inexplicable sightings.
This post is part of Preamble to Halloween, an October marathon of horror features before the dawn of All Hallows’ Eve.
Those living outside of East Asia may not have heard of The Maid, not to be confused with the 2020 Thai haunted tale of the same name. This work of horror belongs to Singapore, one of the first mainstream releases of the genre in my country. It features familiar traditions and habits that are quintessentially local. But as films like Shutter and Ringu have proven, scares can transcend borders.
Set in the seventh lunar month, the film takes place during the Hungry Ghost Festival. The month signifies when the spirits of deceased ancestors return to the mortal realm. Contrary to likely first impressions, the festival has little to do with the terror of the supernatural. Rather, it is about remembrance and honouring the deceased. Even so, the alleged presence of the spirits still stokes fear to any child who spent their early years in the city state.
Continue reading The Maid (2005) – A Chinese Ghost Story Through Foreign Eyes
Apprentice (dir. Boo Junfeng, 2016) – A young officer in search of his past develops a tense relationship with the chief executioner at the state’s maximum security prison.
An emotive look into capital punishment, Apprentice is a rare outstanding achievement in Singapore’s independent cinema.
“But what if he didn’t do it?”
The courts found him guilty, the hangman says, as though he has rehearsed the words too many times in his mind. He cannot afford to think otherwise. Not at this second. So he pulls the lever, just as he always has. Down goes the prisoner through the open doors, his spine whispering a harrowing crack.
Chief executioner Rahim (Wan Hanafi Su) has been doing this for decades. He sees his successor in quiet correctional officer Aiman (Firdaus Rahman), who has taken a morbid interest in the gallows. But there is much more to ‘why’ than Aiman is letting on. His haunted past is revealed when he is asked to become the hangman’s assistant.
Continue reading Movie Review: Apprentice (2016)
The Faith of Anna Waters / The Offering (dir. Kelvin Tong, 2016) – Journalist Jamie Waters investigates the sudden death of her sister and uncovers a mysterious streak of suicides in Singapore.
Confined to the tropes of the exorcism subgenre, The Faith of Anna Waters fails to outdistance its apparent influences.
In 2005, Singaporean director Kelvin Tong made his horror debut. Inspired by Asian cultural observances during the Hungry Ghost Month, The Maid delivered the scares and became a box office success. His gritty supernatural-crime drama Rule Number One continued the upward streak, building much anticipation towards his first Hollywood entry.
The Faith of Anna Waters sees American journalist Jamie Waters (Elizabeth Rice) arrive in Singapore to investigate the mysterious suicide of her sister Anna (Rayann Condy). When her niece Katie (Adina Herz) insists that Anna will return in seven days, Jamie unhesitatingly turns her suspicion to the occult.
Her persistent delve uncovers similar deaths in the city, where she crosses paths with Catholic priests James De Silva (Colin Borgonon) and Matthew Tan (Adrian Pang). The religious pair believes that the end-of-day omens in cyber-attacks on local churches may hold the answers.
Continue reading Movie Review: The Faith of Anna Waters (2016)