Director: Andrew Lau, Tony Kern
Starring: Andrew Lau, Audi Khalid, Sheena Chan, Faridino Assalam
Old Changi Hospital (OCH) in Changi, Singapore is, reportedly, one of the most haunted locations in the world. Formerly a military hospital used by the Japanese military during WWII, it was converted into a hospital for public use after the war until 1999, when a new hospital was built and the OCH was abandoned. In the years since, it has become a site for vandals during the day and a hotbed of superstition and paranormal sightings during the night. When a film crew decides to make a documentary about OCH, they go in, unprepared for what lies within. This is the recovered footage of the events that transpired.
OK, let’s get this out of the way, this is a movie. The events depicted on film are a result of filmmaking and an audience’s willingness to believe in the supernatural. Like many ‘lost footage’ films, it goes to great lengths to maintain the illusion of plausibility. In fact, the production of the film is just as interesting as the events depicted. Actors used their real names and broadcast their intention to film a “documentary.” Considering the very well-known reputation of the OCH, they quickly got attention and quite a bit of local interest in the project.
Using the internet and an inventive but fabricated production diary, the filmmakers were able to generate awareness and interest on a wide scale. When an ‘update’ on the site mentioned a tragedy, it only added to the growing interest. Upon the release of the film, the planning came to fruition, as events on film coincided with the dates of Facebook status updates, production notes, and the nature of online culture. The Meta nature of the project was well conceived and executed, but is the film worth a look, or would it have been better if the footage had stayed lost?
The amateur actors do a decent job, though their inexperience is evident. They speak, for the majority of the film, in English, and except for the girl Sheena and the cameraman Audi, the accents are pretty distracting. I ended up turning on subtitles despite the language because of the slang and dialect. I was reminded of Sukiyaki Western Django at times because of the lack of clear pronunciation. The acting is adequate, though the beginning is a bit of a chore. Before the scary stuff happens, their film talk seems forced and lacking in believability. The acting does get better once they get into the hospital and they provide good reaction shots and physical movements. It is uneven to be sure, but to be expected considering the type of horror film this is.
For an independent production, the film looks good. Multiple cameras, interesting editing, and some well-done lighting and effects help keep the illusion alive. The OCH itself is hell of a locale and its abandoned shell of a hospital is menacing. It is easy to see why it has been the subject of many sightings for locals and those with an imaginative eye. Sound is good, the foley is excellent and there is not much in the way of music, save for a track at the beginning, but there is use of audio cues that is immediately out of place once you notice them.
In the end, Haunted Changi is an ambitious little film that offers a few decent scares and has a great concept, but ultimately fails to deliver the chills of great horror cinema. Hampered by average acting and a lack of urgency, the film seemingly relies on the local knowledge and history of the Singapore people to scare themselves with what is absent. Those familiar with the stories should find more to enjoy about the picture, but for this international viewer, it simply boils down to poor execution of a solid idea.
You may enjoy this film if you liked: Paranormal Activity Tokyo Night, REC, The Blair Witch Project, and Noroi: The Curse