Directed by: Gilbert Chan
Stars: Tedd Chan, Stella Chung, Philip Hersh
Well, it seems my military horror has continued into this Singapore-Malaysian film. Set in the 80s, this movie follows a troop of young soldiers training on one of the islands. After a night of telling ghost stories, the soldiers are faced with paranormal happenings after a mysterious death of one of their own numbers.
I really liked this film – a lot! I like the idea of how urban legends and ghost stories are exaggerated and evolved over time, taking into account new times, mental stress, and how one horror story becomes the next urban legend to be passed around.
So the film starts with a group of four or five of these young soldiers at an army camp on one of the islands in the Singapore/Malaysia area, sitting around a few candles telling a bunch of ghost stories. One is about a female soldier who hung herself after getting bullied by her fellow troop members. Another is about a Kuntilanak – a ghost of a woman who died giving birth to a still born child. And third is about a powerful medium who lived on the island in the village near the army base who gave birth during a reading – resulting in a deformed baby.
But it doesn’t stop there, even though a few of the soldiers are pale, Dragon who is telling all this goes on to talk about how if anyone dies at 23:59 – one minute before midnight, their spirit is unable to find their way to the other side and returns to their realm. He adds in other spooky stories of things happening in their bunk house, of soldiers doing the Indonesian version of an ouija board causing a spirit to enter and kill them all.
Well, one soldier freaks out from all these tales, Tan is portrayed as a timid young man whom Dragon seems to bully around an awful lot. It gets worse when another soldier – Jeremy – childhood friends of Tan, tries to comfort Tan that ghosts don’t exist, however Tan seems convinced of spying some inhuman being outside while on patrol/guard duty one night with Chester. However, Jeremy explains that as a kid himself, his father was a con man and made him believe that he had the “Third Eye” and could see spirits, only to con other people out of their money. That seems to help Tan out as they prepare for the last long range march across the island.
While out on the march, Tan, starts to lag behind and Jeremy along with a few others (including Dragon) pause a bit to mouth off before trying to catch up with the other soldiers of their squad. Jeremy at that moment spies a woman who dropped a bag of oranges and quickly helps her, mentioning how late it is (well past dark, and raining), and tells her to be careful and to hurry home. Well, now Jeremy has lost sight of both Tan and the others. They eventually meet up, with their Sargent when they discover that Tan is still missing.
There is a pretty impressive scene where the four soldiers with their Sargent got out to find Tan, and their flashlights all stop working at the same time and the Sargent calls out for them to do a head count – and faintly a hand is placed on the last person (Dragon), and a fain “Five” could be heard. Of course upon looking back – Dragon seeing Tan’s ghost for a split second before the image disappears in the darkness of the storm and their flashlights turn back on. Seconds later Jeremy finds Tan’s dead body, and also spies the woman he met earlier in the distance for a split second.
This is when Jeremy starts to get his “Third Eye” open. He mentions how he dreamt Tan would die the night before the march, then confesses to Chester that he had a second dream of Chester dying as well. Well… Chester get’s possessed and the army calls in a medium to cleans him of the evil spirit, which only gives Jeremy more determination to figure out what’s going on around them, and tells Chester he could be next to die.
Well… it turns out the ghost story about the medium giving birth to a deformed child is true. Through talking to one of the villagers who works in the canteen, they realize the truth behind the legend, not only did she actually exist – both the medium and the deformed child – but that when the child grew up many of the kids in the village teased and threw rocks at her. Only later to have those children die mysteriously and the story that the deformed woman can control others in some mysterious way.
Jeremy and Chester plan to head to their Sargent to tell him what they found when a musical hum seems to put Chester in a trance and pulls him out to the wilderness. Jeremy follows, only to see some unseen force twist and crunch Chester’s body to death. Once again Jeremy sees this older woman and runs from her through the wilderness to an old abandoned home where he is faced with the full truth of how things happened.
Through a flashback, we see that the medium was dying, and not wanting to leave her daughter alone (who was also chained to the wall), poisoned her as well. We then see both ghosts of the woman and the deformed child she had to the now freaking out Jeremy. However before he could escape the house, the old woman takes possession of him and comforts her daughter’s spirit one last time, apologizing for what she did and asking for forgiveness. It’s actually a very heart felt moment.
With the vengeful spirit of the deformed child now cleanse, along with the mother’s spirit, we see Jeremy return home and have a meal with his dad’s spirit. I feel that Jeremy learned a lot in that night, not only about his own gifts which turned out to be true, but also finding forgiveness with his own relationship with his father – who died while he was away at training.
But the movie doesn’t end there, in a fantastic move, we fast forward to the “present” with a new group of recruits and soldiers in the same barracks as before. They start to talk about how two soldiers died on the island and slept in their same bunkhouse. At this time, you see the door to their bunkhouse creak open all on it’s own.
There are so many legends and ghost stories mentioned in this movie, and the aspect of young men telling ghosts stories and believing in talismans and spirits. I really loved how they turned some vengeful ghost story into a story of misunderstanding, fear, and the brokenness of a particular woman who was deformed upon birth and being subjected to harassment not only during life, but after death as well. I don’t think we get a lot of these ghost story movies with that same sense of forgiveness at the end, something happy to know that these spirits are at peace now. Or… at least not that much?
I highly recommend this movie to anyone and everyone. It’s not overtly scary, there are a few small jump scares, but just enough level of creep factor to hold your attention. Let me know what you think if you seen it!