Curse, also known as Pulau Hantu (Singaporean for ‘Ghost Island’), is about a small group of unwilling soldiers, drafted at random, who are called to do their national duty for two weeks.
During the soldiers’ service, they are called upon to investigate a mysterious island (the eponymous Pulau Hantu) on which bad things are said to have happened. Soldiers routinely go missing on the island, being as they are seemingly sent for a joke by successive generations of commanding officers, leaving their mutilated bodies to be found by the next poor bunch of troops to investigate.
The film is difficult to judge. At times, it’s a challenge to work out whether what’s being shown is completely terrible, or actually brilliant – director Esan Sivalingam mines some genuinely creepy moments from what have become the tired tropes of the Asian horror genre – weird pale children, ladies with hair stuck to their face – and while the music is terrible throughout, it somehow works for this film. It’s so much better than it has any right to be, considering it’s a Singaporean made-for-TV horror movie.
Even subtitle-haters are catered for, as most of the dialogue is in English – although quite why someone who hates subtitles would think to pick out a horror movie from Singapore is hard to say.
The performances are cheesy and mostly overwrought but, again, Sivalingam somehow makes them work in his favour. The two officers in charge of the group, Master Sergeant June Fong (Pamelyn Chee) and Heng Ing How (Carl Ng) do a good job conveying sweaty horror, and even though they’re slightly wooden, it’s no problem. Overall, Curse is a fun movie that’s not supposed to be taken seriously, and with the right idea, cast, and crew, Esan Sivalinhgam could make a really great film.