Time for a review of yet another of the “Shaky Cam” horror films that this wee Catgirl can’t seem to escape from lately. This time out, I’m taking a look at Malaysia’s contribution to the genre, 2011’s “Seru”. About time we got one of these from this part of the world…. the basic “low budget” premise seems perfectly suited for them.
Our synopsis… sounding somewhat familiar by now… goes like this: “Seru” follows a production team in the midst of shooting when many strange things start to take place, affecting the crew members until eventually someone is murdered. When assistant director Sari gets hysterical and makeup artist Julia collapses, things start to get haywire. Not long after, Julia disappears into the forest and the rest head out to find her. As the crew members get taken out one at a time by a vengeful entity, the reason behind the whole event is uncovered.”
Hmmmm? Can’t be tooooo darn many more of these lurking out there now can there? Anyway…. the Trailer for this one actually looks pretty darn creepy, so who knows? Maybe it’ll be the Malaysians who knock this wee Catgirl’s socks off with some real scares and prove that a movie doesn’t have to be a big expensive “Blockbuster” to do the job a good horror film is supposed to do.
So… get yourselves ready Gentle Visitors, as we travel into the jungles of the Malay peninsula to see if the Hantu have what it takes to scare us silly…
So right off the bat this one sort of starts at the end… with what we figure is the sole survivor of this lil’ bloodbath, Jeff (played by Sharnaaz Ahmad) as he props up our camera and gives that requisite speech for those who will discover the footage about how everybody is dead… that the finders should give the camera to the police to explain the horrors they’ll discover befell him and his friends and then the picture goes black before we even start the opening credits. So… that’s one strike against this one in this wee Catgirl’s book… we begin our story knowing that nobody survives. Gosh how I hate that…. But… surprisingly for me, it’s about the only real complaint I ended up having while watching this one. No kidding!!
Indeed “Seru” is a very small budget film… as can be expected of a Malay horror effort… but even given a tiny budget and small location and set, I’m happy to say that the filmmakers made the most of what they had and managed to turn out a tight little horror entry that I’m thinking was… so far… very nearly the best of the “shaky cam” films I’ve watched lately.
As our opening credits roll, the film wastes no time in getting right to the scary stuff. Three characters… Bob (played by Pierre Andre), Zed (played by Awal Ashaari) and Yana (played by Nora Danish) are shown driving through the jungle… They’re being followed by something… and soon they nearly crash the car, swerving to avoid a hunching female thing suddenly in the road ahead of them. Steeling themselves, they proceed to drag a corpse from the trunk of their car… Yana nearly hysterical about how killing him was an accident. Bob and Zed tell her everything will be alright… they just need to dispose of the corpse… and keep their mouths closed. As the hole gets deeper… Yana is scared by the sudden movement of the shrouded corpse… something that might have been real, or just a figment of her guilt ridden conscience. Before we can find out though, the scene is interrupted by a scream… Our camera pans, and reveals that this was just a scene in a movie… but now, one of the script girls is rolling around on the ground doing her best “Linda Blair” impression so the director tells the cameraman to keep rolling….. It’s a smart, nifty way to frame our “real” story as all the further action reveals that our protagonists are actually the film crew behind a new Malay horror film, “Jangan Bernafas” and what we see from this point forward is the footage captured by that camera… originally something for the “Making Of” documentary sure to follow such a film production to DVD…. Hehehe. Nicely, nicely done.
From this point forward, our little group gets absolutely no more work done on their movie, as first one girl, Sari (played by Nisha Dir), gets possessed, only to have it happen again to one of the make-up girls, Julie (played by Cut Mutia). After that… well… all hell breaks loose. It’s pretty standard stuff, as our group makes all the usual mistakes of splitting up to look for the missing Julie, having the creepy nearby locals perform shamanistic ceremonies to “un-possess” Sari. All this leads to our violent and, for a Malay film, surprisingly bloody mayhem as the evil spirits drive the ladies to chop, slice, hack, and mutilate the crew one by one while they all struggle to somehow try and escape the remote and isolated location alive.
I know… now this doesn’t exactly sound like the most original take on this particular genre, so why the heck was I enjoying this one so much? Well… I have to give credit where credit is due and I can honestly say that although “Seru” is pretty much a “by-the-numbers” exercise in horror storytelling, as a Malay film, it stands head and shoulders above other Malay horror efforts for it’s sheer gusto and graphic depiction of the horror. Usually when I watch one of these from this part of the world, I expect to get my chills and scares rather watered down…. sort of “horror lite”. You know what this wee Catgirl means. All the “gooey bits” done off screen….. just having quick peeks at the bodies as they are discovered well after the terrible things have already happened. Well. Not here. Nope… no sir. In “Seru” our crazed possessed ladies are downright bloody and mean…. ambushing people in full shaky cam view…. and the red stuff flies like a chicken caught in a lawnmower. I haven’t been this shocked… and impressed… by something from Malaysia in quite some time. In many ways, the sheer gore approaches levels I usually expect to see only in a big budget Thai film. How much of this footage slipped by the censors in Malaysia, I’ll never know….
And… our crazy possessed ladies aren’t the only thing lurking out in that deep dark jungle. Yep… we’ve got some ghosts too… as well as those creepy locals who just know waaaaay too darn much about evil shamanism and mysticism for anyone’s good. None of that can be good for our little group now can it? All of this serves to push the body count pretty darn high by the time “Seru” wraps things up. Yeah…. I know…. we already know nobody gets out alive…. but this time out, our movie actually somehow manages to make it fun and scary to find out just why. Heck… even the “shaky cam” elements are toned down to acceptable level using all sorts of plot excuses that allow the cameraman to shoot from a steady position, or to actually set the camera down conveniently on occasion to catch the action.
Given this, I have to say I ended up liking “Seru” a lot… and respecting the very professional job done by the directing team of Woo Ming Jin and Pierre Andre who took their small budget Malay film and really managed to give it a very slick, edgy and bloody look you wouldn’t expect from such a humble film industry dwarfed by the output of it’s nearest neighbors. I can easily give “Seru” 4 “Meows” out of 5 for it’s sheer energy and non-stop bloody horror action. It’s not a perfect film by any standards…. and there are certainly flaws visible here and there in plot and continuity… but it knows it’s subject and tackles it like it wants to go that extra yard and blow it’s viewer away. I can certainly appreciate effort like that after seeing so many other lame films that felt like they were just walking through their story just to make a buck. My sweetie thought it all was pretty gross… and was astonished to see how much I liked it given my distaste for the more graphic “slasher” genre. I just reminded her how much the supernatural elements made the whole story less “real” for me and more of a guilty bit of fun…. (But then… remember…. I am a pretty silly kitten with decidedly weird tastes in movies…. No, really!! ;))
The DVD? Not too shabby either. Done in wide screen, All Region PAL format (despite being advertised and sold as Region 3, Hehehe…) it has excellent English subtitles and should be available for around 10$ US… if you can find a copy. And if this sort of bloody mayhem is your cup of tea, you could probably do worse than giving “Seru” a try. If you are a weird film junkie with somewhat terrible tastes like lil’ ol’ me… you just might like it too!
Our Trailer? You betcha!! Here it goes for you, courtesy of Youtube….