When Ghost Meets Zombie (PG13)
Starring Nathan Hartono, Ferlyn G, Gurmit Singh
Directed by Han Yew Kwang
Plenty of people would love to see Nathan Hartono shirtless, singing and dancing. But if you aren’t one of them, When Ghost Meets Zombie isn’t the movie for you. And if you’re expecting When Ghost Meets Zombie to be a rom-com, because it’s sold as such, be warned: it isn’t. It’s really a horror flick, and it’s scary for all the wrong reasons. I thought Jack Neo’s Killer Not Stupid was awful. Not anymore.
The story starts out in an identikit village in Thailand. We meet Pong (Nathan Hartono), a strapping hunk who died eons ago in a flood. His body, however, remains rot-free, unscathed by time. Turns out he’s been turned into a zombie by a Taoist priest (Gurmit Singh), who displays him as a statue. The inane scene requires Hartono to be half naked, covered in gold paint, and keep still, like them creepy street performers. Oh, oh.
And there’s Zhen Zhen (Ferlyn G), a beauty pageant contestant who becomes a ghost after drowning in a river near Pong’s village. As per rom-com (in this case, more like rot-com) guidelines, the undead and the spook meet cute (kinda) at a male strip club, where Pong and his zombie pals entertain the local aunties. Their Magic Mike moves controlled by the aforesaid priest. Welcome to Eye-roll Central.
When things get a little screwy (after some off-screen necrophilia action involving Constance Song), Zhen Zhen enters Pong’s body and together they return to Singapore. Back home, only Zhen Zhen’s buddies (Jesseca Liu and Jeremy Chan) can recognise her in Pong’s body. But, of course. She still wants to be a beauty queen, so she joins a male pageant because she’s in a dude’s body. Oh, oh. Meanwhile, the priest/pimp wants his zombie back.
I’ve skipped a few bits because my mind boggles just recalling the plot details. I’m totally game for a Warm Bodies and The Hot Chick mash-up, but the movie isn’t that ambitious. It’s too busy being incoherent. I didn’t laugh at all. I cringed a lot, though. I was also very angry. This isn’t the work of a first-time filmmaker, but it looks like it was made by people who have no idea what to do with a camera, but have money to burn.
Director Han Yew Kwang has made a few decent movies (18 Grams of Love, When Hainan Meets Teochew), so this isn’t his first rodeo. His co-writers are no newbies either. They’re the creative team from WaWa Pictures, who’ve done some good stuff on TV.
So how did they end up with this slapdash mess? Their concept of fun is to get the performers to act goofy and expect us to laugh at their antics. Like a recurring gag where Gurmit tries to prick his finger to draw blood for an exorcism ritual. Like most of the ‘funny’ parts, it’s forced, kiddish and tiresome.
Same goes with the random cameos (Jack Neo! Suhaimi Yusof! Lee Teng!) — the filmmakers aren’t being funny; they’re just showing off. The movie is a waste of Hartono’s talents. He’s good looking and gifted, but what compelled him to sign on with this monstrosity?
By making this movie, Hartono is giving his legion of fans the impression they’re seeing a movie. They are not. When Ghost Meets Zombie feels like a parody of a parody of a music video that’s played during a company D&D, starring the company’s intrepid staff — it’s something meant for private consumption that got out in the open.
It’s the movie equivalent of a hideous tattoo mistakenly gotten after an all-night bender. You know, something that seemed like a good idea at that time. Bad movies don’t kill time; they waste time. (*)
Photo: Golden Village/Clover Films