Revenge of the Pontianak (PG13)

Starring Nur Fazura, Remy Ishak, Hisyam Hamid

Directed by Glen Goei & Gavin Yap

Legend has it that Pontianaks were women who died while giving birth and their restive spirits are entombed in banana trees. In the 1950s-60s, the Pontianak was the subject of a series of movies produced by Shaw Brothers and Cathay Keris Films during the Golden Period of Malaysian Cinema.

And now, it’s theatre doyen Glen Goei’s turn to give a fresh spin on the scariest ghost in Malay folklore in Revenge of the Pontianak, his first movie since the 2009 family feud drama The Blue Mansion  — and his first stab at the horror genre.

Set in 1965 Malaysia, Revenge of the Pontianak, which Goei shares directing and writing credits with Malaysian actor/theatre director Gavin Yap, concerns newlyweds Khalid and Siti (Remy Ishak and Shenty Feliziana) who are terrorised by the eponymous she-demon Mina (Nur Fazura).

But get this: she isn’t your grandparents’ Pontianak, long-haired spectre in tattered white robe; she’s Glen Goei’s Pontianak and she wears a red-hot kebaya, gorgeously photographed as if she belongs in a Wong Kai-Wai movie. (FYI: Wong’s frequent cinematographer Christopher Doyle is the visual consultant).

Pity the rest of the movie isn’t nearly hot. For starters, it could’ve used more frights, mischief and brio; the scare tactics employed here are on the bland side. Elsewhere, the laboured dialogue and the attractive leads’ lack of chemistry make it hard to get into the characters' backstories. 

Save for a Predator-esque action sequence in the end, folks who are raised on the bedlam of The Conjuring and all those Korean shriek-fests might find Revenge of the Pontianak a bit muted for their liking. In Malay with English and Chinese subtitles. (**1/2)

Photos: Tiger Tiger