Sunday, August 21, 2005

[Screen Singapore] Sumpah Pontianak

Sumpah Pontianak is the third in a trilogy of Pontianak films directed by B Narayan Rao (the first two being Pontianak, and Dendam Pontianak) and starring Maria Menado in the title role. For the uninitiated, Pontianak is a female spirit whose powers are similar to a doppelganger, able to shift shape into various animals (in this film, an owl), and of course, a beautiful woman.

The movie, for the first time in those days filmed in CathayScope, opens smack in the middle of action; Chomel laments her ill fate of being cursed to have the blood of Pontianak coursing through her veins, and a nail hammered into her neck by the villagers have rendered her powerless. Chomel has a daughter Maria (not Menado by the way - another actress, Maria Menado plays Chomel the Pontianak) who is married to the son of a village datok.

Maria pines for her Ibu (mother), and leaves the village, sparking a frantic search by her husband and his gang of comedic friends, who add humour and folk songs to the narrative. In other news, there are various mysterious deaths in a neighbourhood kampong, and all fingers point at Pontianak.

There is nothing horrific about this show when viewed today, with Pontianak's rubbery face mask, with massive scarring, hooked nose, long and white ungainly hair, and two vicious stuck on fangs, and it didn't diminish the fun factor when watching the show. Many of the other monsters, like the cave savage (bad makeup), and the Hantu Raya (a zombie which can turn into a human sized bat complete with wings and the ability to fly) are also made up similarly, but the bottomline is, it's real fun, and real cheesy.

Pontianak plays like Frankenstein, one of its contemporaries in the 50s horror black and white movies, with the gathering of villagers/mobs in search of the monster with their torches and pitchforks/farm equipment, and of course, when chanced upon Pontianak herself, they will turn and run in all directions.

However, in this film, Pontianak is not the villain, but rather the anti-heroine who must use her powers to defeat all evil doers and protect her daughter at the same time, who has a knack for getting herself into trouble. Sort of like Godzilla Vs (whoever it is).

For horror buffs who want to revisit the classical monsters of yesteryear, don't miss this one - it's a tale from this side of the world!

Those interested, there is a last screening this evening at The Arts House at 1900hrs.

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