Revenge of the Pontianak movie review (2019)
Renowned Singaporean director Glen Goei returns to the big screen in collaboration with Malaysian actor and director Gavin Yap in “Revenge of the Pontianak,” a captivating film that delves into the iconic Southeast Asian horror figure while providing a fresh perspective through a romantic storyline. Departing from the traditional portrayal of the vampiric spirit, this movie reimagines the Pontianak through a contemporary lens and gives her side of the story, presenting both horror and humanity in a single character.
Set in a quaint Malaysian village during 1965, the film centers around a newly married couple whose lives are disrupted by the return of the Pontianak, seeking vengeance against the man who murdered her years ago. With Nur Fazura and Remy Ishak as the lead actors portraying the titular roles of the Pontianak and her on-screen lover, the performances are compelling and engaging, providing an emotional depth to the characters.
Known as the Aswang and the Manananggal in the Philippines, Nang Nak in Thailand, or Kuntilanak in Indonesia, the Pontianak is a prominent figure in Southeast Asian ghost-lore, representing the embodiment of evil. The first Pontianak film, released by Cathay-Keris in 1957, achieved great success at the box office, leading to the creation of two sequels, “Dendam Pontianak” and “Sumpah Pontianak,” which eventually became cult favorites.
The love for horror is a shared passion between Singaporeans and Malaysians, and “Revenge of the Pontianak” caters to this mutual fascination. Set in a Malaysian kampung, the film incorporates elements of religiosity and superstition, creating an atmosphere that resonates with audiences. The supernatural creature haunting the villagers adds to the intrigue, contributing to the film’s captivating storytelling.
Notably, the cinematography in “Revenge of the Pontianak” stands out as its most remarkable feature. With acclaimed Australian-Hong Kong cinematographer Christopher Doyle and fellow cinematographer Jon Keng as visual consultants, the movie becomes a visual dream. Each scene is beautifully crafted with saturated colors that complement one another, while the detailed art direction transforms the film into a work of art. The incorporation of contemporary tones in the visual palette effectively amplifies the emotions and ambiance of the narrative.
Innovatively, the film deviates from the traditional depiction of the Pontianak with her disheveled appearance and demon-like features. Instead, she embodies a piece of her former human self, wearing a bright red kebaya, maintaining her original facial features, and displaying long, shiny hair – a captivating and well-preserved zombie-like character.
While the plot and acting might not reach the same level of excellence as the visuals, they are nevertheless forgivable. The plot follows a classic tale of revenge, albeit with subtle feminist undertones, and remains engaging despite some clichés. The acting could have been more convincing, relying less on the script and more on powerful facial expressions and actions to convey emotions.
As an ode to Asian horror, particularly those rooted in Southeast Asian folklore, “Revenge of the Pontianak” deserves recognition and screen time. It allows audiences to celebrate the rich heritage of these tales while presenting a refreshing take on a classic figure. The film reminds us of the enduring appeal of the Pontianak trilogy from the ’50s and ’60s, proving that impressive special effects are not the sole measure of a captivating horror narrative.
In conclusion, “Revenge of the Pontianak” breathes new life into an age-old horror icon, creating a thrilling cinematic experience that merges tradition with modernity. By humanizing the Pontianak and adding depth to her character, the film successfully pays homage to Southeast Asian folklore while resonating with contemporary audiences. The stunning visuals and artistry elevate this film into a visual masterpiece, making it a must-see for horror enthusiasts and those seeking an immersive cinematic journey.
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