Malaysia has under gone an explosion of great horror movies since the dawn of the 21st century. In fact, I have yet to see a Malay horror movie made before the 2000's. Most likely because the censors stopped approving them after the Islamic boom of the 1970's. What makes them so extra-special is that many of the best ones draw upon the rich local history and myths from the country. Everyone knows the best horror movies are based on potentially true events. That fact is true in every country.
Many of these movies focus on rural settings in the country with witch doctors, female vampires known as Pontianaks, and of course enough possessions to live up to the horror genres of countries with a much longer history of creating horror movies. Malay horror is unique with the whole addition of a witch doctor, but it is definitely not a bad thing. It is a nice change from the traditional onryu (long haired female ghost) that is present in other Asian horror movies. The following picks are some of the best ones I have seen, but these are only a handful of fish in an ever expanding pool that is the horror movie genre in Malaysia.
Fragrant Night Vampire
This 2004 movie is responsible for the huge boom in Malay horror movies over the recent years. This film centers around the aforementioned pontianak, or female vampire. The story is fairly simple, it focuses on Meriam who was murdered and buried in a shallow grave. She returns as a pontianak to hunt down and viciously kill those who doomed her to such a fate.
This movie ended up a huge hit in Malaysia and won awards abroad. The pontianak character is something everyone has heard of in myths and legends, because everyone had heard of it, it was a massive hit among movie goers. Thus it ushered in a new era for horror movies. Malay filmmakers saw the massive amount of money it made and saw a bright new market in which they could pounce upon.
This 2007 movie was based around true events, which were spooky enough even without the horror movie twists. The movie focuses on the Malaysian politician Datuk Mazlan Idris who wants to boost his political career through supernatural means. He enlists the help of Mona Fandey who was a popular pop singer in the early 1990's, around when this event took place, and her husband. Fandey claimed to be able to wield the spells of her black magic as a witch doctor. However, the ritual goes awry and the politician is later found hacked to pieces. In the actual event, Mona Fandey was sent to jail in which she was hanged in 2001, reportedly smiling very creepily and saying she will never die.
Though named were changed around in the movie, the relatives of Mona Fandey were strongly against a public screening of the movie. As of 2007, it had not been shown in its home country of Malaysia, and I am unsure if that has changed.
This 2008 movie has a plot very similar to Dukun, however it does not have the same "true story" appeal. Susuk follows Soraya who is a young girl training to be a nurse, however deep into her training she feels the dissatisfaction with her life that everyone feels at one point. She decides she wants to go into a career in showbiz. She is given the chance at showbiz, but at first fails. However, she is told that the practice of susuk may help, which is the act of placing needs made of gold and precious metals into the flesh as talismans. She meets another actress who has been doing this as well and has developed supernatural powers. The two worlds of these women intertwine until they culminate in an utterly shocking climax.
Don't Look Back
This 2007 film is one of the highest grossing films in Malay history. It follows a man named Darma who is suffering from the abrupt suicide of his fiancée Rose. Unbeknownst to him, his fiancée was haunted by a spirit before she killed herself. A spirit the two had released when they plucked a jar from the beach and opened it inside their home. He sets out with his fiancées twin sister Seri to solve the mystery behind Roses' death and unravel the supernatural happenings going on around them.
This movie gives a unique look at traditional Malay beliefs, such as the belief that certain types of ghosts cannot enter a building without being invited by the owner, much like our Western vampire lore.
This 2006 film is probably one of my personal favorite films. The plot focuses on two Chinese sisters named Amber and Lisu who are in want of stardom. To follow their dreams of fame, they travel to Malaysia to pursue careers in modeling and singing. However, one day Lisu goes missing and Amber falls into a coma. Amber is sent back to China for treatment only to awaken five months later with no memory for her past. She later returns to Malaysia to continue her career as a model and search for her sister. Soon she begins to be harassed by an obsessive male fan and begins to have strange visions of her sister.
This 2008 film draws many parallels to other Western horror films in it plot while still keep its traditional Malay charm. Kazman is a good husband to buys a vacation home for his family, however, he neglects to visit it before purchasing. When his wife Sufiah arrives, she instantly feels uneasy about the place. To cement her general discomfort, her daughter Lisa is always downstairs playing congkak with an person only she can see. Congkak is a traditional game in Malaysia and other countries in the area. Sufiah eventually tosses the congkak in a lake, only to hear the sound of it being played the next night. When she investigates, she find an old woman playing it. However, when her daughter disappears, Sufiah recruits an Islamic holy man to help her find her daughter.