IT’S the season for horror film at the local cinemas. With Hantu Kak Limah and Munafik 2 having premiered to an encouraging reception recently, another movie of the genre, albeit one from a neighbouring country, opened in local cinemas yesterday.
Directed by Timo Tjahjanto, Sebelum Iblis Menjemput from Indonesia is a horror film quite unlike the several others we have seen from the country.
“I wanted to move away from the usual Indonesian horror movies,” said the director, when met at the Press screening held recently at MM Cineplexes Damansara in Mutiara Damansara, Selangor.Timo is also the screenwriter.
“I didn’t want to focus so much on the black magic or devil-worshipping element but on the temptations to take a shortcut to a ‘better’ life,and thus, getting trapped in deals made with evil forces.”
Timo, whose previous works such as Rumah Dara (2010), Killers (2013) and Headshot (2016) did not get the greenlight to be screened here, is excited about the Malaysian response to Sebelum Iblis Menjemput. “Surprisingly, there were no cuts from the censorship board here,” the 38-year-old added.
Sebelum Iblis Menjemput tells the story of a woman named Alfie — played by young actress Chelsea Islan — who has a tragic family history. Abandoned by her father Lesmana after her mother’s mysterious death, Alfie grows up to be a guarded young woman. Despite her bottled-up anger for Lesmana, she pays a visit to her ailing father at the hospital when his new family informs her of his condition.
Her visit to the hospital results in a mysterious experience and Alfie decides to return to her family’s old villa to look for answers. At the villa, she soon discovers that she isn’t alone. Her father’s new family – her stepmother and step siblings – also pay the abandoned house a visit that evening. It is on that fateful evening that most of the story takes place.
“Although this film is the first for Chelsea and Pevita Pearce in a this genre, I’m impressed with their commitment to this film,” shares Timo.
Other members of the cast include Samo Rafael, Karina Suwandi, Ray Sahetapi, Hadijah Shahab and Ruth Marini.
DARK AND DEFENSIVE
Alfie is a dark character and this is partly the reason why Chelsea accepted the offer to work with director Timo again.
“Alfie is not at all like me. Left to fend for herself after her mother’s death, she grew up to be this person who’s dark, defensive and rather crass,” explains the 23-year-old who became popular after starring in the TV sitcom Tetangga Masa Gitu? (which aired between 2014-2017). Malaysian audiences would also remember her as Keira in Ayat-Ayat Cinta 2 (2017) and as Illona Ianovska in Rudy Habibie (2016).
“As an actress, of course you want to play as many types of roles as possible. And as someone who is relatively new in the industry, I wouldn’t want to limit myself to playing only certain types or to any one genre.”
As to how she decided to portray the character Alfie, she says, “I didn’t specifically look out for any reference in playing the character. I just followed what the script demanded of Alfie. During script-reading, Mas Timo and Mbak Ruth Marini (the acting coach for the film who plays the character of the shaman) would analyse and discuss the character with me. They’d give the brief on how I should play Alfie and left to me on how to play with emotions and facial expressions.”
Chelsea says she will cherish the experience filming Sebelum Iblis Menjemput. “It was not easy. As you will be able to see from the scenes shot, it was tough having to shoot in the jungle.
“Most of the scenes were also at night; we filmed from 9pm to 8am the next morning. We did many of the stunts ourselves. And although for the rainy scenes, it was not real rain, the water was cold. You are soaking wet in the middle of the night in a forest, quite an experience. Then there’s that scene in the muddy hole which was supposed to be a grave.” Chelsea says it’ll be awhile before she takes on similar challenges.
“It was very stressful. Imagine working between 11 to 12 hours every day at night. But I must say that it was in a way the ‘fun’ kind of stress.”
Filming took 30 days, but Chelsea says the cast actually spent almost three months focussing on the film, from the script-reading sessions and training, to the actual filming.
For that three-month period, the cast was close to isolation. “It wasn’t like we went into hiding but because we were training and filming, we didn’t have much time left for the outside world. Once, coming home tired and still in character, my family realised that I wasn’t myself and simply left me to my own devices,” recounts Chelsea laughing.
Despite this, the character Alfie didn’t stay with her for long after filming wrapped up. “I took two days to rest after we were done, then I was Chelsea Islan all over again,” says the actress.
The last few days of shooting had been among the most tiring. “The final scenes were among those we shot on the last few days,and anyone who watches this movie can tell how intense those scenes are.”
This film is also her first experience working with Chelsea and she says that the energy they shared on the set had been fantastic.
“It was indeed tiring but at the end of the day, we were satisfied. And if nominated for any awards, that’d be a bonus. But I can honestly say that was never our priority.”
The film has been invited for a premiere screening at a few of the international film festivals including the Fantastic Fest in Austin, United States, and the BFI London Film Festival.