Three films now playing in Malaysian cinemas

NOVEMBER 17 ― As we eagerly await the arrival of Polis Evo 2 into Malaysian cinemas next week ― hopefully another strong addition to this year’s unexpected local film box-office bonanza that has so far seen Hantu Kak Limah, Munafik 2 and Paskal all cross the RM30 million mark, joining a club normally reserved for big Hollywood movies and sometimes big Hong Kong movies, and therefore shatter all previous box-office expectations when it comes to local films ― there are plenty of options still available right now for anyone looking to spend two hours in a Malaysian cinema hall.

Of the movies that just opened this Thursday, I’ve only managed to see the latest Fantastic Beasts film, and can’t wait to find the time to dig into Ralph Breaks The Internet: Wreck-It-Ralph 2, The Hate U Give and the infamous local viral sensation (for all the wrong reasons) Mahaguru, the latest film from Malaysian B-movie maestro Z. Lokman.

I did, however, manage to catch up with a few new films that opened last week and the week before that, which are still playing in Malaysian cinemas now, so let’s see how they fare, shall we?

Overlord

Probably the film to watch for most cinema-going Malaysians last week, courtesy of its fantastic trailer and the always reliable marketing strategy of producer JJ Abrams’ Bad Robot production outfit, Overlord is, for mainstream audiences at least, a rare and much needed pulp injection to a big ticket Hollywood production that we simply haven’t seen in a while.

Nazi zombies (no spoiler here, it’s all in the trailer) are nothing new in the cheapo world of indie horror. From the Dead Snow and Outpost films to Frankenstein’s Army and beyond, hardcore horror fans have been savouring the thrills of Nazi zombies for years now, with mixed results, courtesy of the often low budgets and therefore sad production values.

To see a Nazi zombie film backed with real money, and supported by the very sturdy film-making skills of director Julius Avery, is indeed a real pleasure.

It’s not going to change your world, or even the world of horror films, though a special shout out should be made for the progressive casting of Jovan Adepo (as the lead) and Bokeem Woodbine in an otherwise white squadron (when the reality is that African-Americans would’ve been in their own segregated unit during WWII).

But if a no-brainer ride in a meat and potatoes Nazi zombie horror flick is what you need, this one will quench your thirst just fine.

The Girl In The Spider’s Web

Reviews have been pretty lukewarm for this latest installment of the kinky misadventures of Lisbeth Salander, the fifth one if you count the Swedish trilogy or the second one if you only count David Fincher’s Hollywood remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

This latest film drops previous director Fincher and even star Rooney Mara, replacing them with thrill-master Fede Alvarez (of the excellent Don’t Breathe and the Evil Dead remake fame) as director and The Crown’s Claire Foy (aka Mrs Neil Armstrong in First Man) as the new Lisbeth.

Out goes the meditation on misogyny that was the hallmark of Fincher’s film, with Alvarez bringing a relentless thriller urgency to the proceedings here that more or less makes this one a real outlier among all the Lisbeth Salander films so far.

That probably explains why most people have been baffled by this change in strategy and therefore the lukewarm reaction.

Knowing Alvarez’s previous work and his very particular set of skills, I was half expecting this to be a thriller anyway, so the fact that Alvarez has managed to make a breathlessly paced thriller, which felt like an endless exercise in suspense almost throughout its running time, was more than enough for me to enjoy it for what it actually is, instead of what fans of the books (and the previous film) may have wanted it to be. A solid 7 or 8 out of 10 thrill ride.

7ujuh

Having seen director Raja Mukhriz’s previous effort Ophilia, I walked in to 7ujuh without having any high hopes, only intrigued by the fact that it’s marketed as a horror movie that’s set in the 1970s.

The trailer, although filled with dodgy looking scares, looked fine in terms of cinematography and visuals (not exactly a given, because even though Mukhriz is an often excellent Director of Photography, the low budget Ophilia was so visually rough and raw that one would never have expected its director to be an award-winning DoP).

Unfortunately, having sat through 7ujuh in full, the only good thing I can say about the whole thing is the visually inspired Aeril Zafril death scene, and even that comes with the caveat that it’s great only before the CGI started coming in to ruin what was previously a perfectly photographed scene that made me think of Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci for a very short moment.

The rest of the movie, though, is a downright mess, mostly thanks to its script, which does not help the actors at all, and of course the horrible “retro” wigs and make-up, the borderline hilarious attempts at looking drunk and high by a lot of the actors, and the script’s very half-hearted attempt at injecting mystery and twists to the proceedings with its slightly non-linear structure.

The less said about the attempts to scare the audience, the better, because even though each death scene felt like an attempt to do a different kind of horror movie, they just lack the appropriate suspense build-up and shocking payoff that are the bread and butter of movies of this kind. In short, they’re just not scary, at all.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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