Tingling goosebumps and hastened heart-rates are induced from tight montage footage edits and haunting soundtrack during the 80 minute feature film, sitting you right in the middle of Singapore's Old Changi Hospital in petrification. Film-makers prove how pre and post production marketing techniques can heighten the fear factor that leaves people gasping in horror.
A group of local film-makers ventured on a documentary concept to unravel the notorious Old Changi Hospital's (OCH) supernatural side that has invited gossips and urban legend tales for some decades. Previously occupied by both British Forces and the Imperial Japanese troops during the World War, several soldiers and civilians have been tortured and killed within the premises. In January 2010, Andrew Lau leads a team of three others - Sheena Chung, Audi Khalis, and Farid Azlam, into OCH for one day and one night without realising the terrifying fate that lies ahead of them...
Before Haunted Changi's slated commercial release on 2 September, their work on the film actually began much earlier this year. Initially intended as a documentary of the haunted spot, the film has been steered towards the route of a feature length film project with the introduction of investor Mythopolis Pictures.
Social media publicity and viral marketing has been intense since production began as they update their progress with stories and details of their shoot on a filming diary blog as well as their Facebook page, which gathered an army of fans who're intrigued by this concept. Without revealing much to what the actual film will contain, they fed the fans and readers with bits and pieces of informative clues to allow their imagination to run wild with them. Archived Facebook pages of the four members released on their official website further escalates the weightage of the questions surrounding the film. "Is this for real?", "Did they actually record supernatural happenings on footage?".
It is the curiosity that kills the audience even before the film is released.
The first quarter opens with some brief historical background profiling of OCH and clips of street interviews with people over supernatural encounters in OCH. This serves two purposes: Allow the overseas audience to be familiar with OCH's history that is related to the film's plot, and also to stale the air in the theatre as the audience hold their breath to digest its heavy past. It is these historical events that fuel the urban legend being passed on from generation to generation.
I was already with a heavy heart by the time the film-makers began climbing the stairs up to OCH, which is really the beginning of terror. Whatever comes before are mere fear-inducing effects.
Permission was obtained for them to shoot in OCH for a day and a night. It may not sound like much, but the day footage in contrast to the night footage paints you the bigger picture of horror in synergy. OCH looks old and dilapidated and oozes an extremely eerie vibe even without special effects. The location plays a major role during the day with recorded glimpses of conspicuous fleeting shadows and reflections (you will really have to pay full attention to every second of the day footage) amidst claustrophobic spaces that makes me wonder how did they manage to find the courage to walk about a place like that.
The day chapter prepares and challenges the audience to imagine how it will be like for the night exploration (surely far worse!).
Chaos unfold during the night shoot, with bizarre encounters freaking the crew out of OCH in varying degree of hysteria. Some even vowed never to return to the cursed site. I particularly liked the gifted boy's role as his sudden frantic reactions to whatever it was that he saw sends paralysing bolts down your spine. I won't reveal much to the night chapter (as it is essentially the climax of the film, with a tragic twist), but I can assure you that it will feel nothing less of a long distance sprinting aftermath. That's right, it takes your breath away to gasp for air.
Not that you will be able to take in any in your petrified state.
Haunted Changi is a local feature film production that comprises actual documented footage, it is really up to you to determine if any of the content in it is real. Real or not for real, I think horror genre is best served with questions that ends you with more.
True horror derives from your imagination of the unknown.