HHN8 Universal Studios Singapore
By: S. Sean Suvanadesa
I wanted to recall a bit about one of the most enjoyable and rewarding productions I’ve ever had a chance of working on. That would be the series of shoots for HHN8 Universal Studios Singapore. They were three short films meant to be displayed as features for the attractions within the park during Halloween. Not only were those short films gratifying to line produce, but those short films also have some sentimental significance for me because it was my first project after my mentor, Eric Seldin had sadly passed away. As this project was a series of three separate short films, this will be a set of three separate entries expounding details of each film. This entry, as the first, will cover what would easily be the most successful of the three…The Pontianak.
The Pontianak is a mythological creature of Southeast Asian (particularly Malay and Indonesian) folklore. In the case of our shoot, she fit the description of a vampiric lady in white with long black hair.
As a quick synopsis for our short film, our protagonist, “Raudha” is out hanging clothes in her enclosed village/farm, termed as a “kampang” in Malay. The Pontianak is hiding creepily behind some white sheets with Raudha pulling them down in shock and finding nothing behind them. After taking some time to rest beside her barn, the Pontianak appears from below the barn and drags Raudha underneath before consuming her in a horrifying fashion.
What made this film special was that despite being horror-themed it was completely based during the day. Despite the absence of darkness, the film was still able to captivate its audience due to a tense and unnerving atmosphere, along with fantastic cinematography.
The great storytelling is due to the involvement of horror aficionado Mads Karlsen Baekkevold who directed this shoot along with all of the films in HHN8. Mads is easily one of the most talented directors I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.
The location chosen for this short film was Nakhon Nayok. It’s a province covered in lush green rainforest, fog-covered mountains, and flowing rivers. The province was designated by the Thai government to not have any kind of industry. Its natural beauty and close proximity to Bangkok made it the perfect choice for a scene that was meant to emulate a Malaysian kampang.
One thing of note was the adaptiveness of the cast. I’ve always found Thai acting to be very campy. It seems to be a requirement for any form of Thai television or film media. I can recall taking an acting class with a few students that were already involved in a Thai drama series and I don’t remember subtlety ever being a prized trait. This shoot, however, required someone to exhibit varying levels of fear. The actor cast as Raudha, Ms. Tara Villai did this perfectly. She managed to mix nervous anxiety, dreading suspicion, and sheer terror to perfection. That isn’t to take away from the actor playing the Pontianak, Ms. Alexandra Karen Katheriya Lemire, who truly brought the titular character to life with her performance. A truly amazing performance from them both!