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THE MAID (Singapore)

  Publicity Stills of "The Maid"
(Courtesy from GV)

Genre: Horror/Thriller
Director: Kelvin Tong
Starring: Alessandra De Rossi, Chen Shucheng, Hong Huifang, Benny Soh, Guan Zhen Wei
RunTime: 1 hr 30 mins
Released By: Golden Village & Mediacorp Raintree Pictures
Rating: PG

Release Date: 18 August 2005

Synopsis :

During the Chinese Seventh Month, the gates of hell open and spirits are let loose upon an unsuspecting world. For 30 days, the dead walk among the living. To protect themselves, mortals devise rules. Rules such as: Do not swim during the Seventh Month; do not turn back at night when someone calls out your name; do not talk to strangers on a deserted stretch of road.For Rosa Dimaano, all those are just a bunch of old wives’ tales.

Hailing from a small village in the Philippines, the 18-year-old arrives in Singapore on the first day of the Seventh Month to work as a domestic maid. She urgently needs money to save her ill brother back home in the Philippines and ghosts are the last things on her mind. Happily for Rosa, life in Singapore cannot be rosier. Her employers – the elderly and gentle Mr and Mrs Teo – are a godsend, caring for her as if she is their own daughter. Their mentally-handicapped son Ah Soon also takes to Rosa immediately.

Between cleaning house and helping the Teos out at their Chinese opera workplace, Rosa experiences the exotic sights and sounds of Singapore to her delight. Then, things start going amiss. Glimpsing strange apparitions at night, Rosa soon finds herself tumbling into the world of the dead. Unknown to the innocent girl, she had unwittingly broken many rules on the first few days of the Seventh Month.

As the festivities reach a fever pitch in Singapore, Rosa’s life turns into a nightmare. A mutilated boy haunts her. A faceless woman appears in the Teos’ house. Rosa feels as if she is losing her mind. Her employers urge her to bear with the sightings. But Rosa is uncertain. Someone somewhere seems to be trying to reach out to her. To keep her job, the poor girl has to stifle her screams and fear. To save her brother, she must survive the terrors of the Chinese Seventh Month.

Movie Review:

As the 5th of August passes overhead our little island, whispers of cautionary tales echoed through the uninitiated ears.

“One shall not turn upon named at night”

“One shall not swim”

“One shall not converse with unknowns on deserted roads”

.. and many more as many say, the gates of hell will open and the restless shall dwell for 30 days. It’s no stranger to us about the do and don’t of this occasion but imagine knowing it for the first time. Oblivious to the customs and tradition, now imagine suffering the consequences.

Shot entirely in Singapore, this shock-a-minute horror tells of an isolated life of Rosa (Alessandra De Rossi), fresh from Philippines as a domestic maid, starting work with an opera troupe family on the first day of the Chinese Seventh Month. Unknowingly breaking the rules, her life seeking for the better will change into a nightmare.

Regionally collaborating with Hong Kong’s Dream Movie Entertainment, Philippines’ MovPix International Inc. and Singapore’s Media Development Authority with MediaCorp Raintree Pictures drove the production with Singaporean director Kelvin Tong, best known for EATING AIR, who attempts his first horror genre and masterminding the production.

Local production has been helmed far too commercial so as to cater to mass appeal, leaving the critics to shun “in-house brews”. We have been far longing for a film that finally breaks the chain and decides to have it its own way (but with taste that is). But alas, The Maid didn’t really quite reach the expectation. Not to say that it has acquired a bland taste because it certainly had its better moments. Scenes like the one noted for the reason why you shouldn’t sit in the front row of a Chinese opera was a sure classic and definitely, after watching this movie, you’ll never see the old auntie at the bus stop selling newspapers the same again. What bugs me down was the play of scare tactics which was far all too common. With sudden shock appearance and heightened sound effects, perhaps being a horror fan, one might already be jaded to the formulaic reproductions. It had good intentions for the build-up but longed too much in the beginning. Furthermore, even with the right amount of flow, lack of concentration was evidential. But on the bright side, art direction and photography was better taken care of and I must admit, they were worthy of mention.

In a nutshell there was decent overall acting by everyone. Alessandra De Rossi as Rosa, the isolated and self suffering maid, an award winning Filipino actress, was composed perfect in her innocent role. Veteran Chen Shu Cheng, cool collected but one can’t help but nag that there is a secret behind the curtains. But the most surprising entry came from newcomer Benny Soh as the convincing retarded son. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d see him more in film and TV.

Maybe being jaded did personally set my expectation too high but I have to admit, with my eyes half closed most of the time, it did deliver some good scares even when it’s most expected. Kudos for the perfect marketing pitch to set it up during the 7th month, but I wonder if it might backfire as well for the superstitious might stay away. I wouldn’t be surprised if imports of Pilipino and Indonesian maids drop when the film opens in their respective countries. Overall, an unexceptional horror film that remains true to the local scene, hitting close to the heart. Or rather, haunts close to your heart.

Movie Rating:

(A haunting home grown spook-athon that stays true to local taste. You'll never feel alone anymore!)

Review by Lokman B S


. Rule #1 (2008)

. Men In White (2007)

. The Haunted School (2007)

. 1942 DVD (2005)

. Forest of Death DVD (2007)

. Eating Air DVD (1999)

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