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
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."
CHANGING IMAGES OF GIRLS
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,"
ZUL INE RON