The Malaysian film industry has a beef with moral guardians, whose cries have become increasingly frequent of late.
Case in point: “Pulau”, released on March 9, dominated headlines for all the wrong reasons. Once again, the fun police made their rounds, alleging the film to be pornographic and, therefore, a threat to the moral fibre of Malaysian society.
The implication that Malaysians are so fundamentally fragile that a film such as “Pulau” could upend the country is downright insulting. At its core, this is a very middling film with the characteristics of a cookie-cutter teen horror flick… a local effort with not much actual effort put into it.
Mountain, meet molehill.
If you have watched B- or even C-list American horror films, you would recognise the story threads immediately. Seven young friends are enjoying a vacation at a resort somewhere off the coast of East Malaysia. While boating around, they come across a mysterious and foreboding island.
The boatman warns them it is cursed, so naturally, they embark on some foolhardy bet that ends with them being marooned. Sigh.
Before continuing, let’s address the elephant in the room. Yes, there’s “fan service” in “Pulau”, what with these young, pretty people having fun in the sea.
And true, some of the cast members are nice to look at. Just look at Ikmal Amry’s very prominent… cheekbones!
Still, what you get is so mild, you might as well read an Ikea catalogue for more exciting material. If seeing uncovered skin is enough to get you drooling, that’s more an issue of questionably low standards than anything else.
Should you really want to get mad at this film, be mad at the story and characters! If “Pulau” was ever looking for an alternative title, “Stupid Decisions Meet Stupid Consequences” would be apt.
Much of the plot, such as it is, is driven by the questionable actions of its braindead characters, who do literally everything they can to seal their fate. A cursed island? Let’s visit it! Oh, look, a hornbill – let’s chase it into a dark and daunting jungle!
The characters are so intent on getting themselves killed, they make the most illogical moves at the worst of times. Here’s a survival tip, dear readers: if you ever come across an abandoned village covered in talismans and sealed off with knotted rope, maybe don’t touch anything and back away!
Truthfully, even if the evil entity haunting the island doesn’t end up doing these fools in, the fact that they are ill-prepared to face the elements will do the job.
It hardly helps that the characters are not well written, most of them having cardboard personalities. There’s Kat (Amelia Henderson), the main girl with a sixth sense, and her beau Khai (Ikmal), who simply cannot spit out his feelings for her.
There’s the trope-fulfilling hormonal couple Dauz (Jazmy Juma) and Yus (Sanjna Suri), who – for cheap thrills or whatever indiscernible reason – get it on in the creepy woods.
To round off the seven, you have Lili (Joey Leong), Mark (Vikar), and Ben (Alif Satar). Start taking bets on who dies first.
Some of the dialogue is worthy of facepalms, serving to make these characters look even dumber than they already are. In one scene, Lili exclaims: “What a beautiful island!” – only for the camera to reveal the location resembles a skull.
In another scene, the group searches for Mark but, upon returning to his previous location, comes across puddles of blood. Cue leader Khai: “I think he must have wandered off somewhere.” Sure, mate, and those are puddles of strawberry jam.
You’d think the audience would at least get the satisfaction of watching them meet their gory ends. But nope, say hello to the PG13 rating.
Whatever onscreen deaths occur are trifling and dissatisfying, to say the least. The real controversy here is that these buffoons are all begging to be killed off in bloody fashion, and yet viewers are not even treated to a single dismemberment.
Then there’s the ending. As a courtesy, FMT will refrain from revealing any spoilers, but suffice to say, this reviewer’s reaction was: “Oh, for the love of…!”
Two words: cop-out. Or maybe that’s one word. Just don’t ask any of these characters, or those sputtering with outrage over the salaciousness purportedly prominent in “Pulau”. They probably wouldn’t know.
As of press time, ‘Pulau’ is screening in cinemas nationwide.