Movie reviewsSoutheast Asia

Revenge of the Pontianak

Thanks to Netflix there seems to be quite a nice supply of Asian cinema and TV coming into households of the West. And that’s definitely a good thing.

Sure, some of the movies are not as good as one would expect them to be. That rings true also for the Western production, so this is not something to be used against various Asian productions. Stuff happens.

As we all know, Asian cinema is not just Bollywood (and Indian cinema is not just Bollywood either, but that’s digressing to a topic for another day). Therefore I am glad I can get some movies from countries whose cinema is quite an enigma for us in the West.

Take, for example, Malaysia. If I am not mistaken, there’s only one other Malay movie on Netflix, this one being Munafik 2. So, I am grateful for whatever may come my way from Malaysia.

And here it is, Revenge of the Pontianak, or, in Malay, Dendam Pontianak.

The movie was released in 2019 and it tells a story of a guy, whose marriage got quite an unexpected bonus in the form of the appearance of the vengeful ghost, Pontianak.

Pontianak itself is the Malaysian version of Indonesian mythological creature Kuntilanak, and the lore says it’s a ghost of the woman who died expecting the child or during the childbirth. And – as we learn in the movie – not buried the proper way.

To be honest, I’ve expected something in the way of Rizal Mantovani’s original Kuntilanak movie, which was way above his later remake, but Dendam Pontianak is more of a sad story with a supernatural overtone than horror. With Munafik duology (and probably with other movies I have yet to see) it also share the motivational/inspirational/educational thread coming from the islamic faith of learning to do good instead of evil. Which, although in its delineation is simple, in the real life is definitely not. But in the movies I like it that way, I have to admit.

So, short summary for those who might be interested. The movie is set in the 1960s and we follow the story of Khalid (Remy Ishak), who’s getting married to Siti (Shenty Felizaina). Khalid is a single father raising little Nik (Nik Harraz Danish) and living in the little village next to his brother Reza (Hisyam Hamid) and parents.

Revenge of the Pontianak wedding shot

But there’s something in Khalid’s past. Previously – and unknown to Siti – he’s been in the relationship with a beautiful Mina (Nur Fazura). And for some guys when your girlfriend shows up pregnant, well… for Mina, it definitely haven’t ended with a happyend. It’s time for a payback.

And there’s when the movie goes supernatural, but unlike vengeful ghosts of Japan and similar cinemas, this is a sad story of a woman wanting to punish the wrongdoer while protecting her child. There is a sad, emotional passage in the movie when Pontianak shows her affection to Nik, her son, and the ending also brings the feeling of sympathy for poor Mina, instead of a relief of getthing rid of the ghost.

The flick is nicely shot, I quite like the passage with the village cleric Su’ut Din (Namron) being in the trance, but also the pale white Pontianak was beautiful.

It might not be something a casual Western viewer would appreciate. But the lover of the international cinema, and the Asian cinema in particular, will definitely find delight in the movie. It also is a nice introduction to Malay cinema.

Let’s have a look at who’s who in this little flick.

The movie was directed by the duo of directors, Glen Goei and Gavin Yap, who also co-wrote the script. Glen Goei was born in Singapore, he’s an actor, producer and a director, Revenge of the Pontianak is – so far – his latest opus.

Malaysian actor and director Gavin Yap was born in London, he’s got 6 movies total under his director’s belt, and I am pretty sure I want to see KL24: Zombies in the near future (I don’t remember watching anything zombie-related coming from Malaysia, so it would definitely be an interesting experience).

Beautiful Nur Fazura plays the role of Mina, the revengeful Pontianak of the story. Nur is a Malay actress, her acting career started in 2005 and – surprisingly to me – she’s kind of a superstar in Malaysia! Well, here goes my thought of doing an interview with her, haha…. From what I can see, I am definitely interested in movies J Revolusi (2017) and Pendekar Awang: Darah Indera Gajah (2024) she has appeared in.

The role of Khalid, the bad guy of the story, belongs to Remy Ishak, who’s quite an established Malay actor, appearing in movies like Evolusi KL Drift 2 (2010, directed by the famous Malay director of Munafik movie duology, Syamsul Yusof), Jiwa Taiko (2012) or Harum Malam (2022).

Hisyam Hamid plays Khalid’s brother Reza, this young charismatic Malay actor usually acts in TV production, but also in movies like Hero: Jangan Bikin Panas (2019).

Namron as the cleric Su’ut Din

Interesting character in the movie is the village cleric Su’ut Din (played by the Malay actor Namron). Clerics are quite important characters in Malay movies I was able to watch, and usually provide not only the solution to the ghost problem, but ocassionally act malevolently – and, in the process, got the result as deserved. Namron is probably the most established of the actors in this movie, debuting in a brutal historical drama Paloh (2003), horror movies Histeria (2008), Ular (2013), Munafik 2 (2018), Misteri Dilaila (2019), the adventure drama Misteri jalan lama (2011) and TV series as fantasy series Black (2019-2021), KL Gangster: Underworld (2018-) or Kudeta (2022-) among others.

The second female lead, Siti, got her appearance from Shenty Felizaina, still an up-and-coming Malay actress, the Revenge of the Pontianak movie is her 3rd movie role so far.

Rudolf Schütz

The creative mind behind the,a fervent connoisseur of cultural treasures, with an unwavering passion for Asian and Indonesian movies and music. He is a true aficionado, driven by a desire to unearth hidden gems and shed light on the often-overlooked. From the grand stages of mainstream performances to the gritty underground scenes, Rudolf is equally at home, recognizing that every note and frame tells a unique tale. As a cultural enthusiast, Rudolf is not just an observer but a storyteller in their own right. Through his insights, analyses, and reviews, he shares the captivating narratives that ripple through Asia's music and movie scenes. Whether it's a haunting melody that resonates from Indonesia's hidden corners or a cinematic masterpiece that transports you across time, Rudolf is your trusted guide to the captivating world of cultural expressions.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Check Also
Back to top button