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Monday, October 29, 2012

I talk about horror films, ghosts, and Woo Ming Jin's short film DOUBLE (The Star, 26th of October, 2012)

Last week, just before I returned to Tokyo, I did an email interview with Phyllis Ho of R.AGE (the weekly youth section of The Star) about Woo Ming Jin's DOUBLE (which I co-wrote, produced and edited), and also horror films in general. I assume it's for Halloween. The article came out a few days ago.

Candy Lee in DOUBLE

Here's my part:

Ever watched a horror movie and think to yourself – which sick freak came up with this? Who comes up with these dark, terrifying stories for a living, and why do they do it?

Well if you have, today’s your lucky day (though some would say we just jinxed it). We found a few horror storytellers just to get a glimpse into why they do what they do, how they do it, and why people keep coming back for more of the horror they have to offer.

First up is award-winning Malaysian filmmaker Edmund Yeo, 28, who was hand-picked by the YOMYOMF YouTube network to write and produce a horror film in conjunction with Halloween.

The movie, Double, which Yeo made together with fellow filmmaker Woo Ming Jin, is part of YOMYOMF’s “Silent Terror Anthology”, made specifically to scare the daylights out of YouTube users this Halloween.

You won’t hear many people saying this, but for Yeo, the experience of watching a horror movie is a “weird and beautiful feeling”.

“The appeal of horror movies comes from the fact that it taps right into our primal emotion of fear. It can be such an engrossing experience. Especially in the cinema, when you are screaming together with other audience members, you are sharing some very private emotions with strangers around you,” he says.

Double stars local beauty Carmen Soo and newcomer Candy Lee, and the entire film is shot without any dialogue, and the everything happens during the day.

The “fun” in making a horror film, says Yeo, is playing with the audience’s perception.

“I think it is more disturbing when you can see our protagonist, a secondary school student, committing a gruesome murder in broad daylight. Nothing more is left to your imagination,” he says.

The actual article is here, worth a read because it also features interviews with a few others, including a ghost hunter!

Because of the length of the article, some stuff from the original interview were excised. So I'm sharing my full answers on this blog instead.

(On working on the horror genre for the very first time.)

"It's quite a challenge, because I've never done anything like this before! My previous works as a director were usually melancholic tales of longing and loss. Even though I had ghosts appearing in my films, they functioned more as metaphors or symbols than to serve up scares!

My filmmaking partner Woo Ming Jin, on the other hand, has had experiences with horror films. He directed a "found footage" horror film called Seru last year, and also the upcoming KL Zombie.

So we hoped that blending our talents together would lead us to very interesting results."

(On how we got our inspiration for the film.)

"By going through a lot of horror films from the past. We were inspired by older psychological horror films like Roman Polanski's "Rosemary's Baby" and Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining". Our intention was to make an existential horror film that veers away from some genre conventions. Most horror films are shot at night, or in darkness, we decided to make a film bathed entirely in beautiful sunlight. I think it is more disturbing when you can actually see our protagonist (played by Candy Lee as a teenager, and by Carmen Soo as an adult), a secondary school student, committing a gruesome murder under the broad daylight. Nothing more is left to your imagination."

(On whether the cast and crew faced any supernatural encounters or unusual happenings during the shoot)

"Thankfully, none of that happened! The shoot lasted only for two days, we were surprised by how smooth it went. In fact, we were laughing and joking the whole time, and worked mostly in a leisurely, relaxing pace. If you had visited our film set, you would have thought that we were doing a comedy instead of a brutal horror film."

(On what I think of local chinese horror legends like the hungry ghost, water ghost, "jiang shi" (chinese vampire) etc and whether I believe in their existence)

"I think most legends have had some basis in fact, the passing of time may have made them sound improbable, but I wouldn't be surprised if something supernatural or miraculous had happened in the past that started these legends and folklores. We live in an interesting world anyway."

(On whether I loved listening to ghost stories when I was young and whether I was frightened by them.)

As a child, I was quite a voracious reader of horror books written by RL Stine and Christoper Pike (and later, Stephen King), not all of them were that scary, but quite a few managed keep me awake at night!

(On why I think people love watching horror movies?)

In my opinion, the appeal of horror movies comes from the fact that it taps right into our primal emotion of fear. You watch comedies to laugh, you watch horror movies to feel scared. It can be such an engrossing experience. Especially in the cinema, when you are screaming together with other audience members, or laughing nervously, you are sharing some very private emotions with strangers around you. It's a weird and beautiful feeling.

In case you still haven't seen DOUBLE, here you go.

You can even choose the view all four films of the SILENT TERROR anthology here now that they have all been uploaded!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Woo Ming Jin answers questions about his horror short, DOUBLE

Shooting the mouth rinsing scene in DOUBLE

In the past week since our horror short film DOUBLE was posted on YOMYOMF, the responses had been surprisingly positive. I liked reading the speculations from the viewers. (watch it if you haven't done so already)

We grew up in an environment where films exist solely for entertainment, thus everything is explained, spoonfed, and the like. Anything more oblique or ambiguous is condemned or dismissed. So I'm quite surprised that the audiences on Youtube were willing to go into all sorts of discussions over the film.

Occasionally, on Tweeter, I answered questions about the film.

(don't read it if you haven't seen DOUBLE.)

Despite being involved in the writing of the film (and the editing), my interpretation of the film shouldn't be regarded as the gospel truth. The author shouldn't really try to force audiences to react to his works the way it was intended, otherwise we would live in a very boring, colourless world. (I say that cos' I watch some films for irony)

However, if you are still interested to know what was going in the minds of the creator behind this short film, go check out DOUBLE director Woo Ming Jin answering 5 questions about the film from the YOMYOMF blog.

1. How did you come up with the concept for DOUBLE?

The idea for the film came up while my producer and I were watching Kubrick’s THE SHINING. I wanted to make an existential horror film that played within the genre conventions but with a little difference. Most horror films are shot at night or in darkness. I wanted to make a film whose primary color was white, and in daylight. So we conceived the idea of a girl living in a strange house with her mother, whom she wanted to kill. I see DOUBLE as a meta-existential horror film. I guess I wanted to have some fun.

It sure was fun. Now, I share more stills.

The two leads of DOUBLE, Carmen Soo and Candy Lee
The two leads of DOUBLE, Carmen Soo and Candy Lee

Applying some blood on Thien See for DOUBLE
Preparing a gory, bloody scene

BTW: If you look carefully at the credits, you'll notice that the executive producers of DOUBLE include Justin Lin (director of FAST FIVE and also owner of YOMYOMF Youtube channel) and NBA star Baron Davis (whom I liked a lot. Still dazzled by memories of that epic playoff series against Tracy Mcgrady's Orlando Magic where he averaged a triple double, and also that amazing series where he led the 8th seeded Golden State Warriors to an upset victory over the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks, I watched Game 6 over and over.)

Once again, if you folks would like to discuss or ask questions about DOUBLE, you can leave a comment, or just tweet me.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Watch this: DOUBLE by Woo Ming Jin (co-written, produced, edited by me)

Candy Lee in DOUBLE

Back in August, I did a short film called DOUBLE with Ming Jin, serving as producer, co-writer and editor.

The film is meant to be part of the SILENT TERROR horror anthology for YOMYOMF Youtube Channel, 4 hand-picked directors around Asia were to make horror films without dialogue. It was quite challenging, but fun. (The other three directors are Indonesia's Joko Anwar, Japan's Noboru Iguchi and Philippines' Erik Matti)

The shoot lasted for two days, and it starred newcomer Candy Lee (pictured. She will be seen in Yeo Joon Han's new film soon), Carmen Soo (our first collaboration since 2008's award-winning TV movie DAYS OF THE TURQUOISE SKY, also known as KURUS) and Malaysian indie film regular Chua Thien See. Watch it now!

You can check out the production stills here.

Checking the footage of DOUBLE

Film shoot of DOUBLE

Carmen Soo in DOUBLE

How I bought a ZTE ACQUA V880E (an obscure Android phone available only in Malaysia for now)

I returned to Malaysia on Monday. It was raining heavily.

Plane landed in Malaysia around 5:30am. It was raining heavily. What a welcome.

It is raining heavily now as I'm writing this. Which is fine. Waking up to a heavy rain in a Saturday afternoon gives me a strange comforting feeling. There's nothing better to help lower the temperature.

After reaching Malaysia, one little inconvenience was that I lacked a phone.

I bought a Samsung Galaxy Y back in August.

I use an iPhone in Japan, but decided to get myself a Samsung Galaxy Y for Malaysian use. (Not entirely an Apple evangelist)

Despite its limitations, I managed to acquaint myself with an Android phone.

Few weeks after that, I brought it back to Tokyo. The phone was too tiny, I feared for its safety (I'm not exactly nimble), so I went around to look for a leather case or something for it, to no avail (there weren't a lot of Samsung phones in Tokyo). On the same night, the phone was involved in an unfortunate laundry accident.

I was mortified.

I decided to do a proper research before getting myself an affordable phone. Something slightly more powerful, but still affordable. Went to some websites, checked some reviews, went to some forums, read some user comments, made a mental list, hopped onto a cab to a shopping mall.

When I was at a shop, I asked for a particular Sony phone, asked for the price, then I frowned.

I asked for a HTC phone, asked for the price, it was slightly cheaper, but I grimaced too.

"What exactly is your budget?" The shopkeeper asked.

"Erm." I hesitated, then I told him.

"Wah?? That's tough! You won't able to find a phone aside from the Samsung Galaxy Y!" He remarked.

"I ain't using that again." I announced.

"How about the Samsung Galaxy Ace?" He suggested, which was close to what I wanted.

I remembered an obscure phone that I read on a website from a link provided on a message board. Apparently, the phone, by a Chinese manufacturer, is available only in Malaysia.

"There's this phone. It's called the ZTE ACQUA V880E." I said.

The shopkeeper's eyes widen. Immediately, he shoved all the other phones back to the display case.

Then, he took out a phone from his pocket. It was the ZTE AQUA V880E.

"How did you know about this phone? Not many did!" He remarked.

The phone was indeed much cheaper than the others, it was within my budget, and the specs seemed almost comparable to phones twice its price.

"I will take it!" I declared dramatically.

After losing my last cheap smartphone in an unfortunate accident, I decided to get myself another yesterday. The supremely obscure ZTE ACQUA V880E that's available only in Malaysia. It's also ridiculously cheap despite its specs.

So, a few days have gone by. I'm rather satisfied with the phone, the photos I took weren't exactly iPhone quality, but still pretty decent.

Testing the camera capabilities of my ZTE Acqua V880e. not too shabby for something that costs a quarter of my old iPhone 4
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