Help! My Girlfriend is a Vampire! (Tolong! Awek Aku Pontianak!)

I was feeling a bit down at the end of the week, and Saturday night crept up on my, and I was down with a severe case of the blues.  As usual, I turned to my movie collection, and wondered what could raise my spirits?  Would I attempt to start my masochistic run though a selection of Wong Jing films?  Or would I go and try the next random film off of the “to-watch” pile?  The easy option would be to put on one of those old favourites.  But none of these options felt quite right.  And then it struck me… how about having a look at a Malaysian film that friend of the blog Nekoneko had recommended over at her Litterbox?  I have not tried anything from Malaysia before, and it seemed light and frothy enough to maybe raise my spirits a little.  To my utter surprise, not only did it achieve that goal, but it was one of the best films release in 2011 that I have seen!  Now I am afraid this one doesn’t seem to have made it to IMDB, to it will be a little link-free, but I am sure you can Google it as well as me!

Poor Bob is not having a good time of it recently.  He has been plagued with a recurring nightmare about his long term girlfriend being a Vampire.  And to make matters worse, when he attempts to propose to her, she announces she is leaving him for another Guy.  His work life is not too much better, as his teams great ideas are being passed off as the work of his department boss (who is also the son of the companies owner).  He has also been forced to live above his means to impress his girlfriend, so he decides to cut his losses, and downsizes to a new flat along with his best friend.  It is all a bit run down and has a reputation for being populated by immigrants and ghosts, but there is an unexpected bonus in store.  Not one, but two gorgeous sisters are his neighbours. Thing is, they really are Vampires!!  But Bob and the older sister, Maya, start to fall for each other.  But is this a relationship doomed from the outset?  Can Bob stop being a terribly nice guy, but also an utter loser?  And what part does a third Vampire and her pursuing Shaman play?
Well, what a pleasant surprise this one was.  Even though the film wasn’t the most polished, indeed it was rather basic (it is more like a TV show than a film), it really struck a chord with this reviewer.  It doesn’t have the flashiest direction, the acting is so-so and the special effects are limited to some makeup and wirework.  Yet it manages to tell a story well, in a humorous and touching manner.
The humour works very well – and this was something I was worried about going in to the film.  It took me a long time to “get” a lot of comedy from other Asian films, but this one works at both a basic and multi-national level – it isn’t reliant on clever word play, just simple comedy bought out of everyday situations.  Well as everyday as a world that includes Vampires can be of course!  Whilst I am sure there is some stuff which is Malay-specific, it really is a film that can be embraced by all cultures, a nice little visual gag about Avatar shows this well.  I found the language rather interesting also – lots of English words peppered around which really helped me get into the film.
A word about the Vampires involved too.  The actual title (and the spoken words) talks about them actually being something called a Pontianak, which is more akin to a Gaelic Banshee.  However, the actual website of the production company translates this as Vampire, and there is a scene which is playing on the more traditional Western concepts of Vampires, both visually and using Garlic, so I think there is a bit of blurring of the lines here.
The film would be fine if it was just a humorous little love story, but it actually has elements that push it just a little further – whether it be social commentary on how badly Malaysians can treat African immigrants (and surely the fact that all three Vampire Sisters seem to come from different ethnicities is a little nod to this too); or the failings of nepotism in the workplace – they all add up to make this film world a little more real than I was expecting.
It is smart enough to even play some of the villainy in shades of grey.  Sure, the final sister is a bad Vampire, but not only are the main Sisters genuinely good, but even the work Villain goes from utter tool to actually wanting to save his employee.  And there is a special moment when the ex-girlfriend finally sees that Bob actually is a decent guy after all – and it is beautifully underplayed – just a little look, no great drama.
I utterly adored this film, which came as a huge surprise.  It is sweet, amusing, and has a bag-load of Heart.  So much so, unless 8 wonderful films come my way in the next 3 months, it is a shoo-in for the top 10 of 2011 – something which I really did not expect before seeing this film.  Has it made me a Malay movie fan?  Probably not, but it is still Highly recommended.       

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8 Comments Add yours

  1. Nekoneko says:

    So glad you liked this one!! 🙂

    I've been chatting with another friend from Indonesia, and she says that the Pontianak sounds a bit like their ghost called the Kuntilanak which Wikipedia seems to agree with.

    I don't know why all the weird spirit monsters in Asia seem to be all girls… but there certainly are a lot of them!!

    If you liked this one this much… there's a Philippine movie that's very similar called “Ang Darling Kong Aswang” (My Darling is an Aswang). Maybe give that a try sometime too when the blues get a hold of you again.

    Here's a Trailer for it… (Gosh, I just love sharing Trailers… 😉 )

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  2. ElPeevio says:

    Yeah, I had seen the little discussion on your blog about the Pontianak/Kuntilanak thing. They all do seem to be similar, which isn't too surprising. And as I say, it all shares a lot with the Banshee from Ireland/Celtic Myth. There is probably a good reason for the gender of all these ghosts being female, buried in the socio-gender make up of the past of all countries – but I refuse to even touch that one right now 😉

    I guess part of the charm is in this film, it isn't really that important. They have some fun with the wailing, and the general look (and I want to see that b/w movie they watch – how meta!), but really it is about fitting in, and being an outsider.

    Right, now back to Chingmy Yau stabbing/shooting men in the genitals – what a way to spend my Monday evening….!

    Oh – and a question – where do you get the Malaysian DVDs from? I can't find a copy of it at my usual retailers (so yes, I did get it 'unofficially', but good films deserve my money). If you have a net link, that would be cool, either here in the comments, or drop me an email.

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  3. Nekoneko says:

    I think that the Pontianak film they watched might have actually been “Kala Malam Bulan Mengambang”… there was a poster of it on Bob's wall at his apartment. It's a recent film made to look like a vintage B&W one. Bad news though… no subtitles are available. 😦

    If you don't mind long delivery times, http://sensasian.com is a good and trustworthy place to get Malay stuff, although be aware you don't get free shipping until you order about three DVD's in an order. There are cheaper places, but none I trust as much as Sensasian. Delivery, at least to the US takes about 3-4 weeks… I've no idea how long it would be to you.

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  4. ElPeevio says:

    ahh yes, sensasian – I totally forgot about them! They used to be my go-to supplier back when I first was discovering asian cinema. I wonder if my account works still? And 3 DVDs at a time? You know that is never the problem lol. I tend to use YesAsia, they can be pretty speedy to the UK when they are in the mood, but I notice that once you look outside Japan/Korea/HK/Mainland, unless it is a Western movie they can be pretty lacking. I have used play-asia before too, they can be good for the unusual stuff, but often seem a little pricey.

    And if you are looking for more synchronicity…. White:Melody of a Curse is in my next delivery!!

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