Thursday, April 9, 2015

Indonesia gets its first zombie flick ‘Kampung Zombie’

After all, images of the “walking dead” evoke Hollywood – and fans are quick to pick up every nuance: are they walkers or runners? Are the zombies made through airborne viruses, or do you need to get bit?

This fetish gives director Billy Christian, director of The Legend of Trio Macan, among other films, a loophole to create a new type of zombie – one that can be found only in Indonesia.

“A zombie movie is also a pop culture product that has an ample room for different perception and creation,” Billy said after the premiere of his most recent movie, Kampung Zombie (Zombie Village). 

“It’s in my vision to use pop culture as a medium to introduce Indonesian culture.”

Billy, an emerging indie director who also works for local studios, began to ponder making an undead movie in 2008, after watching the pyroclastic flows from the eruption of Mt. Merapi in Central Java.

The flows, locally known as wedhus gembel, gave him the root cause for his film’s zombie infection: magic.

After all, some who live near the volcano viewed the 2008 eruption itself as a manifestation of a metaphysical struggle between the mountain king and the fabled Queen of the South Sea.

In the film, people magically come back from the dead after hot ash kills everyone in a village deep in the forest. Some still sport caping (conical hats). One zombie woman even appears in a kebaya and full Javanese hairdo.

The movie starts with two obviously Jakartan richy-rich couples on a glam camp holiday — sipping wine and getting it on in a field six months after a volcanic eruption. 

Suddenly, they are attacked by zombie villagers with a taste for fresh flesh.

It is not clear whether the zombies, armed with sickles and machetes, dislike the rich, city dwellers or make-out sessions. But the creatures react differently to the next group to stumble on screen: Budi (El Rumi) and his four best friends, who set up camp in the same forest after spending a day mountain climbing.

They separate — of course they do, it is a horror movie — and end up walking into the zombie-infested Kampung Mulya.

One of the friends is held captive by the undead, while two others sneak away from the hungry mob by mimicking the zombies – you know, growling and limping away.

Eventually, the teens look for some payback, arming themselves with whatever they can scavenge from the house, including a bow and arrows. But they’ll need more than luck to escape.

The shoot, done on location in Sentul, West Java, was convincingly creepy and the cast shows promise if they continue acting.

The movie — the nation’s first zombie film — is an extended version of Billy’s Mati ½ Hidup (Half-Lived Death) from 2012. It also marks the screen debut of teen heartthrobs El Jalaludin Rumi and Axel Matthew Thomas.

El is the son of musicians Ahmad Dhani and Maia Estianty, while Matthew is the eldest of actor Jeremy Thomas.

Billy shares direction credit with Helfi Kardit, who helmed Bangku Kosong (Empty Seat) and the absolutely execrable Suster Keramas. Helfi was brought on board halfway through the production, adding some scenes, including the opening and the ending, and took over editing.

The film is obviously low budget - something that shows in the film’s look and feel on screen, as well as in the makeup adorning the undead.

However, there is something noteworthy in Billy’s vision for the zombies. He also crafts a real story of love, hope and despair as the sole survivor connects the dots. 

Billy -- a promising, creative director of Movie 8 -- made a smart move in backing Kampung Zombie, which ends with a scene that is screaming (literally) for a sequel. 

Let’s hope that Billy can find the wherewithal to raise more of the undead in the future.

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