Alternatives and choices in 'Misteri Dilaila' and 'Happy Death Day 2U'

MARCH 2 ― Now that the 2019 Oscars are over, and however you may feel about the results (for the record, I'm fine with Green Book's win because I can now call the genius slapstick auteur behind Dumb and Dumber To and The Three Stooges remake an Oscar winner!), we can now move on and cleanse our palates with less respectable fare, preferably of the horror/genre kind.

And how kind the Malaysian cinemas have been by offering up quite a bounty of horror/genre fare this week for our viewing pleasure.

The biggest buzz, of course, belongs to Syafiq Yusof's latest film, Misteri Dilaila, which arrived in cinemas in two versions with two totally different endings/third acts that the film-makers have kept mum about initially.

Social media basically exploded with fans at first discussing the fact that there are two versions (with no announcements as to which cinemas are playing which), followed by discussions of what the different endings are (which surely then provoked a lot of people to also catch the version they missed the first time), and now followed by fan theories dissecting the clues, trying to make sense of the two endings.

I wouldn't be surprised if some people will even go as far as to watch both versions twice in order to catch everything, which means that's four tickets sold for just one person!

Whatever you may think of the film, one must applaud Syafiq's brilliant business move with the whole two endings thing which got tongues wagging.

Unfriended: Dark Web may have preceded this move back in the middle of last year in the US, but this one's definitely the first time it's tried here in Malaysia.

Now that Misteri Dilaila is in its second week of screening, another mystery has turned up, thanks to the wonders of the internet.

It turns out Misteri Dilaila is remarkably similar to an old TV movie from 1986 called Vanishing Act (which itself seems to be a remake of another TV movie from 1976, One Of My Wives Is Missing).

I don't remember seeing anything in the credits saying that this is a remake, or was based on any previous intellectual property, so we'll have to wait and see what the film-makers are going to say about this.

Caught right smack in the middle of all this hype about Misteri Dilaila is Happy Death Day 2U, which opened on the same day, a sequel not many expected, but one which fully justifies its existence. Let's see how they fare...

Misteri Dilaila V1

To know which version you're watching, a title card displaying the film's FINAS number at the very beginning of the film will indicate whether it's V1 or V2.

It tells the story of a married couple, Jefri and Dilaila, holidaying at a bungalow in Fraser's Hill.

One night Dilaila mysteriously disappears, coincidentally the morning after an argument between the couple.

Jefri lodges a report with the police, but luckily a local imam informs him that his wife was found safe and brings her back to the bungalow.

The problem is, the woman is not Dilaila even though she claims to be her.

In between all this are what seem like hauntings experienced by Jefri, that can also be interpreted as dreams. These are not spoilers, because it's all shown in the trailer.

Where Syafiq takes this basic premise, especially as the movie reaches its third act is where Misteri Dilaila earns its bread, especially compared to the cookie cutter nature of most local films.

Without spoiling things, I'll just say that V1 is more of a thriller with plenty of twists and turns, with nods towards all those classic movies about wrong men mixed up with doppelgangers like Les Diaboliques, Vertigo, Obsession and Femme Fatale.

I'd much prefer it if the ending didn't explain everything through dialogue, but it's a tidy and fun enough thriller that will entertain you.

Misteri Dilaila V2

The premise of V2 is the same as V1, but unlike the twisty thriller that was V1's actual chosen genre, the third act of V2 goes into some really goofy and maybe even gonzo horror territory.

The deviation point in both movies is a scene where the characters meet a banker from KL, who's come to Fraser's Hill to pass a cheque.

In V1, it's the actress Sasqia Dahuri who meets the banker, and in V2 it's the actress Elizabeth Tan who meets the banker.

The circumstances of the meeting I won't spoil for you, but regrettably V2 is way messier and impossible to tidy up or explain in logical terms.

Where I found my enjoyment in V2's ending is in Rosyam Nor's decision to try and channel his inner Nicolas Cage (as in the gonzo Nic Cage of movies like Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, Mom & Dad or the second half of Mandy).

That transition into gonzo territory wasn't smooth, I'll be the first to admit that, but once it got going, I still found myself giggling at Rosyam's antics.

Depending on your taste, this one might be an entertaining mess or just a mess. Don't say I didn't warn you!

Happy Death Day 2U

Please don't let all the hype surrounding Misteri Dilaila make you miss this seriously awesome and brilliantly entertaining sequel that somehow manages to live up to the original AND top its murderous fun.

If the original was Groundhog Day meets Scream, then this sequel is still that, but with Back To The Future 2 added into the equation, and in this one we finally find out what triggered the main character Tree's repeating day in the first place.

As implied by my reference to Back To The Future 2, the cause is a time-looping machine called “Sissy”, and there's even a “multi-verse”, as Tree finds herself in a world that looks familiar but is slightly different.

It's in these slight differences that writer-director Christopher Landon managed to very successfully weave in bits of emotional heft (seriously, I teared up at some parts of this film!) into his already successful slasher-comedy, which is also a sci-fi adventure in this sequel.

A dizzying feat of pop entertainment, this is already one of the best horror/genre films of the year. Bring on part 3?

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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