Time to dive head first into that big pile of Malay DVD’s that are collecting here at my apartment with a look at another recent Ghost/ Comedy, 2011’s “Hantu Bonceng”. Lately Malaysia has been very good to this lil’ Catgirl, delivering a number of simple, but solid little films that I’ve really enjoyed with a mix of supernatural hi-jinx, romance, and even a few laughs sprinkled in with the ghosts and ghouls, so I was hoping for more of the same this time out.
The synopsis reads like this: “Hantu Bonceng” revolves around Amran (Zizan Raja Lawak) a delivery boy who often races in illegal drag races. It all started when Amran wins a race and is given a girl as his prize for winning the race. The girl rode with Amran to the port but Amran’s bike was hit by the lorry after a turn in the junction. The girl died on the spot while Amran was brought to the hospital. The incident forces Amran to change as the ghost of the dead lady keeps haunting him every night. Amran feels the tension and asks his best friend Kunyit (Taiyuddin Bakar) for help.”
So… all of the usual elements are present and that bodes well, but as always… I have to watch it to find out if it really measures up. Think maybe you might want to search out your own copy? Hmmmmm? Better let this wacky Catgirl go first and tell you whether this one shines or just plain stinks…..
As our story gets underway, we get quickly introduced to our hero Amran (played by Zizan Raja Lawak) and his life as one of the top “champions” of the highly illegal underground motorcycle street-racing scene. He’s a rascal, a daredevil, and quite the Lothario with the ladies. Your favorite Catgirl took an immediate dislike to him…. but… I figured that was intentional on the part of the filmmakers… that as with most Malay stories, there would be some redemptive change in him by our film’s end as he gets all involved with the supernatural world and is forced to address his flaws for the better.
He has a quick race, which he wins, and as his prize is given a young, beautiful country girl (played by Juliana Evans) to ride away with…. presumably to ravish at his leisure. I was a bit confused here… and couldn’t figure out why the young lady was so willing and compliant as she seemed the typical innocent “virgin-next-door” barefoot peasant girl from some poor village out in the Malay jungle. What exactly was she doing here in the city with all the sleazy gamblers and gangsters? We do actually find out later on…. but even the reason, once revealed… is somewhat thin to be credible. Here’s where Neko first had that feeling this one wasn’t going to be a winner of a film…
As Amran rides off triumphantly, waving to the crowd, he stupidly rides right into the path of a fairly large truck. Gentleman that he is… although at first the two of them scream and freeze, he manages to throw himself from the bike to safety seconds before the huge truck smashes it and our lovely young lady into bits. What a creep….. 😦
He wakes up in the hospital the next day… a little stiff… a little sore…. but otherwise perfectly fine. Rather than worry about the fate of his “prize”, he immediately hits on the sexy young nurse assigned to his care… who turns out to be one of his previous “conquests”, now angry that he has continued his reckless ways after promising her to reform. He does learn of the grisly demise of the nameless lady on his bike, but beyond a momentary twinge of sorrow is ready to get out of the hospital to find out just how badly smashed up his motorcycle is. Grrrrr!!! He’s really making a certain wee Catgirl angry with him too…. and by now I was ready for that “begrudged haunting punishment” that is just sure to follow…..
Hooking up with his buddy Kunyit (played by Salehuddin Abu Bakar), he’s off to the repair shop, where his wrecked bike is totaled… but easily replaced by the shop owner only too happy to have a “known champion” riding one of his premium bikes. Thank goodness it isn’t long before the girl’s troubled spirit begins to follow him about causing him no end of grief.
Now…. it’s a Malay film, remember… so our ghost is limited mostly to just following Amran around and popping up at shocking moments to just freak him out. Eventually this disturbs him enough to drive him and Kunyit to seek out her identity so they can see her properly buried and end this annoyance. It’s all fairly standard stuff….. but nowhere as interesting or well done as it might have been. About the only real funny bit was when the ghost catches Amran running about in a towel after a shower only to have Amran remember his grandma telling him that nakedness will frighten away a spirit. He flashes her… and this old peasant trick actually works. Gee… who knew crucifixes and holy items could be replaced by “the Full Monty”….? Unfortunately this was the best humor “Hantu Bonceng” has to offer…. and that’s nowhere near enough to fill 85 minutes.
So how to pad out the plot? How about if Amran finds out that Maya… the dead girl… has a twin sister Ayu. She’s as pretty and innocent as her sister… and ever so happy that Amran has turned over a new leaf to help her bury her sister, find work in the city, and protect her from falling into the same fate as her twin. Here’s where you’d think the redemption part is going to start…. and at first it does, although falling for Ayu means dropping his girlfriend the nurse who also bought into his change of heart and has forgiven him. Damn… guess he hasn’t really changed at all… or has he?
It’s “Spoiler Alert” time… and we find out that Ayu isn’t the sweet girl Amran thinks she is. She’s one of the trashy bar girls that hang with the gangster leader behind all the illegal racing and it was her that forced her sweet innocent sister to be the “prize” at that ill fated race. She’s here just to get even with Amran by casting an evil black magic love spell on him to make him fall for her so she can take him for all he’s worth. Naturally… his estranged girlfriend Ton, the nurse, finds all this out and teams up with Kunyit and his new girlfriend Maria and her brother, a Muslim Ustaz, to save stupid Amran before it’s too late.
But… should I even care? By now, I’m sad to say, I really didn’t. “Hantu Bonceng” just hadn’t delivered the tricky mix of horror, romance, and comedy that I was hoping for. Mind you… it is a hard thing to pull off and better made films have failed at this too, but here, I think, the fault really lies with the story’s basic characterization of our Hero. Ummmm… Zizan Raja Lawak as Amran is just plain unlikeable. He doesn’t pull off the “redemption” of character successfully that would have been needed to make this all work and can’t manage to make a “lovable rogue” out of the role either. Not really certain if that is his fault or the screenplay’s, but either way it’s the flaw that brings this one down in the end.
Given this, I can only give “Hantu Bonceng” a sad 2 “Meows” out of 5. It just isn’t a good film at all… and not worth anyone’s time unless you… like a certain silly Catgirl… is easily convinced to watch these things. Why would you? Well… the Malay disc is at least cheap, at around 6-10$ US and comes with good subtitling. However… as with at least one other recent disc from Malaysia I got recently… the DVD has the most annoying anti-piracy feature ever conceived. Along with periodic watermarking of the distributors logo, it also has vexing instances every 10 minutes or so where everything goes ever so slightly out of focus for a minute or so at a time. ARRRGGHHHH!! It’s not enough to keep you from seeing what’s going on… but it does want to make you yell “FOCUS!!!” to the projectionist… until you remember you are sitting at home watching this on your TV…. Given all this, I’d have to say, most of my gentle visitors are recommended to pass on this one. Darn…. and I so wanted it to be good…. Better luck next time, I guess.
Our Trailer? Why certainly!! Enjoy… if you can!! 😉