ABC of The Haunted School

The Haunted School posterIt’s back to school for the spooks. And here’s the ABC for Asian scare fare, The Haunted School …

A is for ACTING

For horror movies, the actors are usually just accessories. As long as they don’t laugh when they’re supposed to scream, it’s like fulfilling hunger at MacDonald’s (even though Mac D tries very hard to list every dietary benefit its menu). Expect pensive looks, wide eyes and open mouths… but on really good-looking actors. The actors hail from some obscure Hong Kong boyband with a brick licking performance by veteran songstress / actress, Amanda Lee, as the ‘I-know-the-secret’ mistress of discipline. The cast wasn’t over-the-top in their portrayal and credible in emoting ghost, so it was easy to immerse in the storyline. Very often, actors take acting liberties with horror genres that they distract the audience from the purpose of the movie and the special effects. Thankfully, The Haunted School taught its actors the right grammar in their performances.

B is for BLOOD

Surprisingly, the whole movie bled only an ounce. There was no blood spitting from dismembered body parts, neither did it ooze from cisterns and sinks. The Haunted School belongs to the type of horror that’s scary rather than gory. And it did have some really creepy scenes like the sequence in the toilet; the one where a girl jumped from the school’s roof and then rising up, with her body all twisted and dangling; and the idea of the ‘wall of ghostly shadows’ (鬼影墙) was simple yet brilliantly disturbing.

While the Boo! factor scored high marks, the movie lacked a certain grip that gets you at the edge of your seat. Maybe it’s because of the kooky sense of humor that peppered the film. It was a nice touch. Especially in one really well executed scene where one of the male students opened a door and discovered the ghost after he thought it had been eliminated, that was so hilarious… the whole hall was roaring with laughter for quite a while. It was funny because the actor delivered his line very matter-of-factly without ‘comedizing’ it. You don’t get very many entertaining horror films like Haunted School nowadays.

C is for CINEMATOGRAPHY

Nothing spectacular here. You can’t tell the era of the movie despite the story spanning three generations. The special effects are effective enough except the last part where the ghost was being consumed by fire. It was pure CGI massacre. It looked like an intro animation to an Xbox game and very cartoony. On top of that, I found the thunder and lightning combo with eerie photographs a tired trick and very, very dated.

On a whole, teacher gives The Haunted School a B+. It is entertaining without choppy editing and doesn’t waste time too many unnecessary details. But I have one question though…

You see, The Haunted School is about this discipline mistress (Luan Shi Yin) who was burnt to death in the admin office when the wife of the school’s principal caught their adulterous affair. Luan’s body was never found. After that incident, the all girls’ school closed for repairs and was opened 20 years later, and Luan returns as the phantom discipline mistress. She would call the names of students who had broken the school’s rules to come to her administration office. The students who went in never came out. Or they would be found dead at the school’s toilet.

With its reopening, the school also began to admit male students under the new education system. The school’s historical rules that are not to be broken include no smoking, no drinking, and the students’ skirts must not be more than 2 inches above their knees. But the number one rule that the students must adhere to is that they cannot have love affairs in school. So, the question is, if it was an all-girls’ school historically, how come their number one school rule is not to fall in love with each other? Unless… unLESs…

Watching The Haunted School was also somewhat of an experience because I attended the pre-release screening at NUS Temasek Hall. The media event was jointly organized by Shaw and the Singapore Paranormal Investigators (SPI). Before the movie started, SPI had a segment that showcased their work, something like a documentary following their investigation of paranormal occurrences in Singapore. It was weak and it was a joke. They investigate things like whether Mentos popped into Coke would cause a ‘volcanic’ reaction (which by the way, it did). I mean. Hello? Is that paranormal?

Anyhow, the tie-up was an interesting idea and to watch The Haunted School in a school upped the spook ante. With all the NUS students screaming and squirming, I haven’t had more fun watching a ghost tale in a long time. If only I could just get one or two of them to sit on Uncle Darren’s lap so that I can spank them when they talk too much…

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