So this film doesn't come with the warning for expectant mothers and those with heart condition to stay away, and there's no need to as well since The Curse of Niyang Rapik plays out more like a supernatural mystery thriller rather than a horror film hell bent on scary the wits out of you, and like my first theatrical Malaysian horror outing with Santau, this one also has that strong connection like the Thai counterparts with the involvement of witch doctors and hexes. Don't go look at the promotional poster of the film as there's a key surprise that's given away!
The film opens with probably its goriest scene, where a man whom we will learn is called Zack (Fizz Fairuz) is undergoing a ritual to rid of some evil spirits that's causing his stomach to be disfigured and bloated with black pus. A battle is waged by the bomoh, who unfortunately loses the fight and his client. Zack's untimely death scares his friends Mi (Kamal Adli), Zan (Shaheizy Sam), Pul (Zed Zaidi) and Mir (Awal Ashaari) who speculate that it's because of an item, the Karambit, that was taken from the Niyang Rapik village during their project stint, that he and probably them as well, are cursed.
Thus begins a trip back to the village to return the item and seek forgiveness, but alas things aren't as cordial as before with most villagers strangely absent, and at every step comes the expectation that things will not be as simple nor go as planned with the return of the stolen item, since the offense goes beyond theft and into something that's about honour and revenge.
I suppose it never was the intention of producer-director Ahmad Idham to create a sense of a whodunnit in hiding the identity of the magic man who's hexing the gang of four teens who have returned to the village. In some ways this reminded me of Art of the Devil 2, where because of an unspeakable crime committed, things are expected to go bump in the night. However, there seems to be a wanton need to toy with our 4 male characters rather than going for the kill, and each scare episode results in punches being pulled than delivered through, resulting in some inexplicable situations set up just for the sake of, some even relying on favourite cliches such as worm infested noodles.
Surprisingly too that sound effects weren't blatantly exploited to ramp up the scares, and more often than not a situation turns into a rather comedic one thanks to the presence of Shaheizy Sam whose loud mouthed, and sometimes cowardly character, provided comic relief. Best Actress at the 22nd Malaysian Film Festival Liyana Jasmay plays Laila the wistful village girl who is more than meets the eye with her dalliances and obvious attraction with the boys which we slowly learn from flashback scenes, but in some ways her sweet looks seem a bit too kind to evoke that threatening sense of danger each time she appears.
As mentioned, The Curse of Niyang Rapik is more a supernatural mystery that slowly unravels itself to the audience like a typical Asian horror film, which plays on the themes of revenge and karma. Things happen for a reason of course that will ultimately be explained, and thanks to some good makeup, provided some opportunities for scares along the way.
The Curse of Niyang Rapik opens on 13 May 2010.