Film Review: ‘Return to Pontianak’2 min readReading Time: 2 minutes
Directed by Djinn
Running time: 81 minutes
Screened at Cine.SG (November 1, 2006)
In a nutshell
An Asian-American girl, accompanied by a motley crew, goes in search of her birth mother’s village in the Malaysian jungle and meets a pontianak.
Puzzling, not horrifying
The best way to watch Return to Pontianak is to regard it as a indie flick of the mystery genre rather than as a serious horror film. I spent most of my time trying to figure out what was happening — which isn’t a bad thing, because that meant at least that I wanted to watch the film right to the end.
The story begins with Charity, an Asian-American girl who is determined to visit her birth mother’s village after having strange premonitions about returning there. Her annoyingly enthusiastic Malaysian internet friend, Raymond, helps her to arrange the trip and brings along a British expatriate (who sounds completely Aussie instead) , a chain-smoking ex-air stewardess and a reticent native guide.
The minute they enter the jungle, the strange encounters begin, most notably the appearance of a creepy girl in white at the witch doctor’s house where they are staying. She is, of course, the pontianak, a Malay female banshee. However, though there is plenty happening — blood, gore, the predictable ang moh mistake of peeing on a grave, ominous close-ups of voodoo knickknacks and so on — there is little explanation why these developments are taking place, and this is where the question marks begin.
This film was shot on digital video and has all the shakiness of The Blair Witch Project, but with a grittier, documentary-like effect. There are also all the requisite horror movie effects such as vomit, insects, dead foetuses, blood and white eyeballs to create a few moments of gory tension. In fact, there was one startling moment that actually prompted the guy behind us in the cinema to jump up in his seat and yelp — which indicated that the movie had succeeded in a way.
But there were still plenty of unanswered questions after the credits started rolling, so perhaps Return to Pontianak, is best watched with a group of friends — so that at least one will have company to ponder all the loopholes and unexplained loose ends.
- Review of Return to Pontianak (Apollo Guide)
- Review of Return to Pontianak (Kyonsi Online)
- Review of Return to Pontianak (A Nutshell Review)
- Review of Return to Pontianak (The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review)
- Interview with Djinn on low-cost digital filmmaking (Asiaweek)
- Interview with Return to Pontianak producer Juan Foo (Cine.SG)
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