The synopsis goes like this: “The story follows failed businessman Kamal and his wife Kalin, and three children, Azhari, Azalis and Azmeera, who move into a new house out in the rural backcountry one step ahead of vicious loan sharks seeking repayment of their money. Unfortunently for them, the house is haunted by a mysterious supernatural figure known as Kelibat. Kelibat did not just haunt the family physically but also emotionally and spiritually.”
So what the heck is a Kelibat anyways? Darned if this wee lil’ Catgirl knows but the Trailer makes it look pretty darn scary.But I’ve been teased before… and the last couple of Malay offerings I’ve seen have been somewhat tepid at best… Will I get any luck this time around? Only one way to find out… 😉
Well then. Our story gets underway as we are introduced to our main characters, a Malaysian family whose upscale life in Kuala Lumpur is coming to a rather nasty financial end. Kamal (played by Fauzi Nawawi), the father, has to uproot them all as the bank forecloses on their home forcing them to leave for the rural boondocks. Good thing too, especially since they skip town before the loan sharks Kamal’s been forced to deal with move in to make things all messy and uncomfortable for everyone but good. Not that the family knows anything about that…. They are all just in shock to discover their comfy life is gone for good, and all very pissed at daddy for being the “big loser” who let it happen. Grrrrr!!!
Yep. Right off the back your Favorite Catgirl’s not feeling the love for these characters. Poor Kamal comes across as a relatively nice guy… but a nice guy forced into a bad place by the unrealistic materialism of his two eldest spoiled children Azhari (played by Nizam Zaidi) and Azalia (played by Atikah Suhaimie) and a wife Kalin (played by Ellie Suriaty Omar). They are written as such selfish, self-centered and downright disrespectful people that I took an immediate dislike to them all. Whatever the “Kelibat” was… I sooooo wanted it to hurry and show up to punish them but good. Not a good sign when the only character in a film that I can have any sympathy at all for is the not-too-bright henpecked husband of a group of snobby pretentious overindulged people like that.
Anyways… Kamal has scraped together enough money to put them up in an old house in the countryside while he tries his darndest to find a way to make ends meet, keep them all fed, and maintain a low profile to throw off the vicious loan shark’s goons while he figures out a way to get a new source of income. The house…. Whoooo! If this is where you go to live when you are flat busted broke in Malaysia, then by goodness, a certain crazy Catgirl would like to join you. It’s an amazing wooden mansion nestled in the jungle near a gorgeous lake… with a footbridge at the front, all these open verandas and several floors of furnished rooms. There’s oodles of vintage gingerbread woodwork trim, and even an indoor pool right in the living room!! I soooo love it!! Our “happy family”? They absolutely hate it! Say what?
Yep. I kid you not. Eldest boy Azhari is pissed that he’s stuck in the sticks with no cell service and forced to eat “kampung” food (Apparently that’s “down home” country cooking… Malay style. Looked pretty darn yummy to me, but what the heck do I know?) instead of the “western” stuff he’s used to back in the city. Eldest daughter Azalia? She’s equally disdainful of all things “kampung” as well… and also pissed that rural Malaysia could care less if she’s got decent internet or cell service. The house? Why…. my goodness… there’s no maid service!! Yep. There’s no way she’s going to do something as “demeaning” as dispose of the odd dead rat or do housework to help out around the place. So, you can see… all in all… these people don’t get it. Their father’s doing his best to keep them afloat… something that you know from the start is probably going to fail… but he’s literally giving it his all. For them. As if that matters to them… at all.
Only this youngest daughter, adorable lil’ Azmeera seems to treat this rambling old house like a new adventure, even when bad stuff starts happening. Which it does pretty quickly. It’s not long before all the standard haunting stuff starts happening… and it’s worth paying attention to all this stuff, as it becomes clearer and neat once the “big reveal” happens and you know what’s really happening to our lil’ dysfunctional family.
With all the strife… and the utter lack of cooperation and understanding on the part of his family, Kamal’s attempts to make things right are doomed. The family unity simply disintegrates until the final insult to him, when his wife decides to abandon him, take the children and leave, presumably to crawl back to her own parents and throw herself on their mercy rather than stick things out with her husband. So much for “for better or worse, in sickness and in health”… maybe the Malay wedding ceremony doesn’t cover that. I’m just still in somewhat of a shock, given how most other Malay films I’ve watched have portrayed a much more solid family unit as the norm. There might be witchcraft… infidelity… and any number of other things might be going on, but you could always expect a Malay family to show basic respect to the family patriarch. Sure you might murder him… and that happens in some stories… but by goodness you show him respect while you are doing it. Here Kamal gets none of that. He’s insulted, verbally berated and abused, even emasculated by his own wife in front of his children. Basically he’s everybody’s whipping boy.
So… (and it’s “Spoiler Time” o’ Gentle Visitors)… when our film finally reaches its climax, it’s no real surprise that Kamal just snaps. Driven to the extreme edge of abject failure, killing them all in one bloody night seems his only choice to end the pain and failure. First he stabs Kalim as she gives him the cold shoulder in bed. Then it’s off to smother whiny Azalia in hers before heading downstairs to drown his disrespectful eldest son Azhari in the pool. Even poor lil’ Azmeera has to die, receiving the kindest death he can give her… a quick poisoning and a father’s gentle loving embrace amid her favorite toys till she’s gone. One vengeful backstabbing later by the dying wife he thought already dead and a fatal neck snapping fall from the roof, and they are all gone to the “Big Sleep”. Then we get our prerequisite “twist” reveal… you see, apparently all this actually happens really early in the film, and remember all that “haunting” that was going on? Seems it was always them… They were apparently unaware they’d died so miserably, and were actually reliving this final scene over and over, perceiving themselves as the ghosts in echoes of what happened in the few days leading up to the murders. It’s sort of neat once it happens… and then all those earlier scenes suddenly make all kinds of sense… although both Carolyn and I sorta saw this idea coming about midway along. But hey… it actually works and in a very simple and easy to grasp way that even us foreigners understood. 😉
Strangely enough, this one ended up being a pretty nice watch for us… even though I absolutely hated most of the characters. That’s a new one for me. Took a few days to sort out exactly why I ended up liking it so well. Much of it has to be the way “Kelibat” itself was filmed. The cinematography is excellent… and the setting… that house deserves a quiet “old school” haunting to make it complete. Seriously. If my sweet wifey and I ever lose it all and hit rock bottom, I know just the perfect place for us to sneak away to for a fresh new uncomplicated life of quiet serenity living on modest means in the warm lovely jungle climes. Even if it does come with the soft whispers of the unquiet dead lingering just out of earshot. 😉
I surprisingly give “Kelibat” 4 “Meows” out of 5. Yep you read it right, o’ Gentle Visitors… This one is still lingering in my mind days after watching it…. and I still can’t exactly pin down why I enjoyed it so. It’s a simple story… with a familiar old ghost story plot notion… filled with characters I didn’t like… but in the softest way, it’s crept into my mind and refuses to leave. It’s just got “something”. Even if I never did figure out just what a “Kelibat” actually is… (Google Translate was no help at all… it tells me that it’s some sort of Indoneasian canoe paddle… 😕 .)
The DVD? It’s a Region 3 Widescreen formatted disc, with good English subtitles… even for the “Making of” featurette. You should be able to score a very budget friendly disc for yourself right around 10$ US or so at all the usual places. Should you? Hmmmm?…. Surprisingly, I’d say yes, if quiet old ghost stories that are more about the haunting stuff and less about the gore are your thing. Of course… if they aren’t exactly your cup of tea, you are probably reading the wrong silly Catgirl’s Blog, Hehehe!!!
What’s that? Our Trailer? But of course! 😉