The directors of "KL24: Zombies", (L-R) Gavin Yap, James Lee and Shamaine Othman.
Have you ever thought how it would be like if a zombie apocalypse strikes Malaysia? How would Malaysians react, and how would they deal with the outbreak?
That is what independent filmmaker James Lee thought about when he created "KL24: Zombies", Malaysia's first indie zombie film with a story that will change the way people think about the country.
Joining forces with two other talented directors Gavin Yap and Shamaine Othman, the 90-minute full-length film tells the story of the first 24 hours of a zombie outbreak from three different points of view, featuring various quirky and typical Malaysian characters.
Some of the known cast from the film include Sharifah Amani, Azman Hassan, Pete Teo, Joseph Germani, Sue Tan, Fatimah Abu Bakar, Na'a Murad, Benji Lim, Thor Kah Hoong, Alfred Loh, Fahad Iman, and more.
"KL24: Zombies" is now already available for free-viewing on YouTube.
Sharifah Amani is one of the lead stars in the film.
Cinema Online: Can you share the inspiration behind this project?
James: We are always making all sorts of independent films, and this time we want to do something that is rarely done in Malaysia, that's why we chose a zombie genre.
Why zombies by the way?
James: One thing is because the genre is quite popular – thanks to blockbuster hit movies and series like "World War Z", "Train to Busan" and "The Walking Dead". Personally, I truly enjoy watching zombie films and I think they have become blockbuster spectacles, because originally zombie films were cult movies, and they were made with very low budgets.
But somehow today, it has transformed into something mainstream that everyone loves due to video games and whatnot. So I thought that, why don't we try creating one zombie film ourselves and see what we can come up with the genre. So I guess that's the inspiration behind it.
One of the stills from the movie featuring Thor Kah Hoong.
Why did you decide to recruit Gavin Yap and Sharmaine Othman for this project?
James: Because they are the only two who are willing to join this project! [laugh]
With this type of genre, I thought of wanting to try with different directors because we have been producing for various directors with our "3 Doors of Horror" project but they are mostly in Chinese language. So I thought that I want to try move away from Chinese language content and see where we can push it. We had previously produced for Gavin Yap for the short film "Duck Rice", and I've seen only two of Shamaine's short films, which are "Cuak" and one of the "Ikal Mayang" series, and I quite enjoy them both. So that's when I decided to pick them and see if they are eager enough to do this.
Then, can you both (Shamaine and Gavin) share the reason why you decide to join this project?
Shamaine: To be honest, I'm not a zombie fan, but I'm this weird person that likes to take on challenges. I was a bit apprehensive at the start because I don't like the genre even though I do watch zombie films. But I went around talking to my friends who like this kind of films, and somehow decided to try to mash zombie genre with the kind of film that I usually do.
Gavin: When James first started talking to me about it, we didn't know that it was going to be a zombie project. At first, he messaged me saying that his planning something but not sure what it is yet, but he wanted to know whether I'm interested in working with him again because we had just worked with each other on "Duck Rice", which I really enjoyed. So I thought, why not, because I have no problem working James again.
Then later I found out, we're doing a zombie project, and that was very exciting because I like zombie films, and since no one else is asking me to do a zombie film, it seems like a good opportunity for me. I also like the idea behind the project, because from day one we already knew that it was going to be on YouTube for free, and I really like that.
Sharifah Amani and Azman Hassan shooting on set.
How is this zombie film different from every other zombie flicks?
James: I think the Malaysian element will stand out. If the film is watched by people from other countries, it may be a bit hard for them to understand because the Malaysian flavour is very strong, not just because of the language but also because of the content. That will kind of solidify it from the rest because it's an online and independent project, and there's a really strong 1Malaysia element in the whole film.
Shamaine: The film is like an anti-zombie film but with zombies, in a really bizarre way! [laugh]
Gavin: As a zombie film, it's hard to categorise, and I like that about it. Because we knew that we were making something for YouTube, the thinking and creative process that goes into it is very different. There're a lot of things that we're not afraid of doing, and things that we're not thinking about, which we would have to think about if it was more of a commercial proposition. So, that has turned the whole project into something that is very unique – you definitely not going to see any local film like this in the cinemas.
Can you give a brief explanation on each of your segment?
Shamaine: So, my story is about Datuk Karim who has four wives, and his youngest wife has turned into a zombie. That's all I'm saying. It looks into polygamous marriage with the whole zombie apocalypse environment.
James: Mine is to kind of create a story that can link the three stories together, so that it looks like one incident. So, mine is the beginning when the outbreak first happen, and how all the Malaysian characters react and deal with it.
Gavin: Mine is about a Chinese family who is being visited by their oldest son and his Malay girlfriend. While they're in the middle of dinner, that's when the zombie outbreak arrives at their doorsteps.
The cast of "KL24: Zombies"
Any challenges faced during the shooting?
Gavin: Every shoot is challenging in its own way, especially when you're working with limited resources, there're always challenges, but that does not necessarily mean that you don't have fun, it's just that you would always try to think of new ways to do something. So that's always a challenge. When you're making a film like this, you're always jumping over hurdles – it's hard but it's fun!
Shamaine: For me, I guess this is my first attempt in action. So when I'm on set, I always wonder like "Is this action-ny enough?" [laugh] So for me, it's basically just imagining how the action scenes would translate once it's been edited, like in terms of energy and pacing, because action films have that element of suspense, and sometimes I feel that when you're on set, you kind of lose the suspense. Well, those are my problems.
Another still from the movie featuring Azman Hassan.
What is the core message of this film?
Shamaine: I just want people to take away whatever they find in the film, there's no particular message because I'm just telling a story about polygamy. So whatever people want to take away from it, I give it out to them.
Gavin: I don't like to tell people what the film is or what they should think, you think whatever you want. I think that there's enough in the film, and for everyone's segment, there's a lot of food for thought there. I think different people will respond to different bits because the sensibilities are a bit different.
James: The film has a lot of element that are relevant today, and we do have one core message for the film, which is "Malaysia Boleh"!
Gavin: And to eat halal food! [laugh]
Last question! James, what is your next project?
James: We will continue to produce short films on the channel. We are restarting "3 Doors of Horror". We didn't have one last year because we were focusing on "KL24: Zombies".
We would also want to see how the feature film does online, like how's the response and viewership. If the reception is good, we would probably have more feature-length films and see how we can monetize them in the future, making it into a proper business.
Cinema Online, 10 January 2017