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KUALA LUMPUR, July 18 (Bernama) -- Malaysia’s local film industry has seen a

revival in recent years, with a number of films, especially horror, breaking the


At the time of writing this article, a local film had already surpassed RM10

million in box-office collection.

Looking back at the list of local box-office movies, one cannot deny that a

majority of them are horror films. In 2007, ''Jangan Pandang Belakang'' was the

highest grosser in the year, a record previously held by 1994 drama film

''Sembilu''. This started a revolution in the local movie industry prompting

production houses to come out with either horror or horror-comedy movies.

"Why are the ghosts in many Malay movies females?" posed the writer''s

companion while watching a Malay horror movie not long back.


The answer to this question lies with the Malay beliefs and superstitions,

according to social science lecturer Shafiee Abdullah.

"We are brought up with tales and legends of ghouls and evil spirits. Most

of the times, these entities are women who are dead. Of course there are male

ghosts like toyol and orang minyak, but the Malay community is used to

pontianak, polong, penanggalan and other ghosts who belong to the female

gender," he said.

For example, Malays believe that women who die during child birth may

return as pontianak, while those who practise black magic are transformed into

polong and penanggalan, among others, Shafiee added.

"Look at media reports on hysteria incidences in schools. Most of the

incidences involve girls. Many of Malay folklores have dead women returning as

ghosts for revenge or after their resting place is disturbed. Probably, many

among the society regard female ghosts as more scary.

"Hence film makers, not only in Malaysia but in other countries like

Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines and even Korea and Japan think that female

ghosts have a greater impact on the audience. This in turn creates handsome

returns in terms of movie collections," he said when asked about the


Shafiee further said the makeup for a female ghost, complete with long hair

and gruesome face, can be easily done and tends to be more scarier than for the

male ghost.


The Malay community believes in the ''saka'' or evil spirits, entertainment

industry manager Abdul Rahim Abdul Hamid said.

"In the distant past, it was believed that people possessed evil spirits

known as ''saka'' for protection. The Malay community believes that the saka can

only be passed on to the next generation if the willing recipient is a woman or

an effeminate male (feminine man) as depicted in the movie Waris Jari Hantu.

Maybe women are viewed as the weaker sex and prone to disturbances caused

by the supernatural. That is why mostly bomohs (witch doctor) are portrayed in

the movies by men. There are some women bomohs around, but their

numbers are much less," he added.

To this Shafiee adds: "It is understood that in the olden days, medical

facilities and healthcare workers were not as readily available as now. People

at that time had to rely on the bidan kampung (village midwife) to help deliver

babies. Most of the babies were delivered at night and the bidan needed to be

strong to handle cases.

"Some of these bidan were believed to have had the assistance of saka.

Sometimes the village midwife had to respond to emergencies at night, hence they

also relied on the saka for protection. They believed that these evil spirits

will protect them from possible dangers, particularly at night."


What the movie-goers have to say.

James Chong, a workshop owner in Rawang, said: "Because everyone is used to

seeing cute and beautiful images of girls, when we see them in totally opposite

form like creepy or scary, we get more scared and all the film makers want to

scare us with their films.”

"Women are perceived as innocent and good and when this role is reversed in

a scary movie, it''s surprising and catches you off guard because women aren''t

generally seen as an embodiment of evil in the society," he added.

Women appear more threatening because they are unpredictable, said another

movie-goer who wished to be named as Siti.

"In my opinion it is easier for females to look scary. The make-up artists

have an easier job making a woman look scary when playing the role of a ghost,"

she said.



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