The two main cast of "Bring Back the Dead"; Jesseca Liu and Jacko Chiang.
Comedy director Lee Thean-Jeen latest is a horror drama film titled "Bring Back the Dead". The film is based on the short story, "Bringing Back the Dead" from a collection of short stories called "Ghost Baby and Other Eerie Tales" by Wong Swee Hoon.
Focusing on two married folks whom have just lost their young child due to a horrible car accident, we see the devastated mother seek help from her former caregiver on ways to bring back her dead son's soul. Of course with a premise like that to start off your story, it's only natural that things start going horribly wrong. But the blend of comedy intertwined with the horror elements and a heartwarming look into a family's bond is what makes this film work.
The same can be said with the cast that's made up of Singapore-based Malaysian actress, Jesseca Liu, Taiwanese host and actor, Jacko Chiang and the young and rising actor, Shawn Tan.
Cinema Online managed to talk to the "Bring Back the Dead" team as they reveal unexpected information during the production of the film.
Why did you decide to make this horror film?
Lee: I had done two comedies and I thought it is now time to try something in a different genre. The other reason is because the film has been in development for about seven years and I don't think many are aware of this. Seven years ago, I read a short story and the film is actually based on this short story which is titled "Bringing Back the Dead". I was very moved because it wasn't just about horror or ghosts, it is a poignant drama about a woman who has suffered a tragic loss and tries to deal with it in a very unusual way. It is something that I want to share with the audience, that's how I decided to turn it into a film.
What are the elements that have motivated you to make this film?
Lee: I would say that it was probably the relationship between the mother and the child that she lost because as a parent myself, I think sometimes any parent would have this fear when your child is leaving for school or to a friend's house, you would wonder if it's going to be the last time that you would ever see your child. I know, this is a very disturbing thought, but I think it is something that every parent would worry about.
I think this feeling is pretty normal and it is what draws me to make this film. Also, over the years, horror has been mixed with a lot of other genres such as comedy, action, romance and drama. So I wanted to make a film that is not just horror, but something that deals with the more psychological and emotional aspects of the supernatural.
Director Lee Thean-Jeen talks about his movie.
Jesseca, are you scared of horror films and supernatural beings?
Liu: I am actually one of those who are not afraid of ghosts. I think I am quite brave.
Does that mean that you do not believe in ghosts?
Liu: No, I do believe in ghosts. I believe they are beings who live in another dimension different from us.
Do you think if you can see them, you would be able to confront them?
Liu: I believe that the reason I am not scared of ghosts is because I have never seen one in my entire life, but during the shooting, 'something' did happen, something out of this world. On the last day on-set, the director showed me a photo that his wife took.
Jesseca Liu at the press conference held recently in Malaysia.
So what happened exactly? Lee, what photo did your wife take?
Lee: Well, we shot this film at this house which has quite a history. The shot itself was in the film, around the third quarter, and if you watch it closely, then you will see it. You can check it out yourself and see if you can see anything there. We didn't edit the takes because we couldn't. We took quite a few takes of that particular scene and no matter which take we took, 'it' is still there in all of the takes.
Which part of the movie exactly? Can you give us a little hint?
Lee: It is towards the end of the movie. Probably around 7 minutes before the end. I can't tell you exactly which scene it is, because then that would be spoiler.
Jesseca, when you found out about that, how did you feel?
Liu: I think the director is a really nice person. He only told us about this after the shooting of the whole film was done.
What is the hardest part of the film that you need to act out?
Liu: The mother's responsibility and grieve. The mother's responsibility towards her child is really big and the pain you have to bear when you lost your sole child, the feeling and emotion that I needed to gather is not easy. I think I won't be able to imagine if this were to happen to me.
Jacko, you are a Taiwanese artiste. How do you feel acting in a Singaporean film for the very first time?
Chiang: I used to host a few shows in Singapore then I worked in Taiwan. So this is really my first time participating in a Singaporean film. Jesseca said she is not afraid of ghosts, but ironically, I am someone who is really scared of ghosts. Having her acting by my side, I am glad that I can finish shooting this film without a hitch.
I have acted in several films and dramas before, but this is the first time that I have acted in a film where the director wants us to engage with the very first response that we have while shooting this film. He believes that the first reaction is always the best and the most original. For example, during the funeral scene, everything seems so real. The other actors were sad, they were crying, it is like I entered a real funeral instead of just a film scene.
Do you find it odd that you suddenly have to enter a surrounding like that even though it has nothing to do with you?
Chiang: Every day of the shooting, I found it to be weird. From the start until the end, Jesseca always wears a worried look. I only saw her smile after the shot is done. But during the shooting she is always depressed. She was really immersed in her character.
You said that you are afraid of ghosts. Then why did you decide to accept this job offer?
Chiang: When I received the script, I only received half of it. So, when I googled on some info on the director, I found out that he had previously done two comedies. I am someone who likes to laugh and of course I work as a host, so my job is to entertain people. When I got the script I saw the title "Bring Back the Dead", so I thought maybe this director tried to change his style by directing a family drama. I read the script and found out that it is about a couple with a young child and I realised that I can relate to this because I just had a child with my wife too. Then the script also mentioned that the couple loses the child in an accident. I was like "Wow, this is a family drama".
So I decided to go and meet this director, and when I got there, I found out that the director himself was not sure of how the story would end.
Lee: We had not decided on the ending of this film at that point, because we had to get Jacko into the schedule and we were rushing for production. So I decided to send him the first half of the script first. I didn't even know that most of the horror would be in the second half of the film. The film is more of a drama than a horror.
The director and cast of "Bring Back the Dead".
Why did you decide to change your style from comedy to horror?
Lee: I have always liked horror films, but when I had the chance to make my first film, the idea for the first film actually came from several partners of mine who were going to produce this film. "Homecoming" is actually about people going back from Singapore to Malaysia. I can relate to that because I am from Penang and I work at Singapore. It was a story that was very personal to me which is why I decided to do "Homecoming". But I have always been a big horror fan; I watched horror films since I was young and I also love comedy.
Do you think horror films are harder to produce compared to comedy, or are they the same?
Lee: I think both of them are difficult in their own ways. It is very difficult to make people laugh as well as scared. You need to apply different techniques in both genres. What I believe is that if you don't have a strong story, whether it is a horror or a comedy, it won't do well. So I think the genre is not important, what's important is the quality of your story.
What do you think about the two cast performances in this film?
Lee: First of all, I think for Jesseca's performance, 80 per cent to 9 per cent of this film is about her character. After the first ten minutes of this film, you won't get to see her laugh anymore. She will be sad, angry and scared the whole time. She has to portray a whole range of emotions and I think she did quite an amazing job. It is really great working with her as we don't need to go through any lengthy discussions about what was needed for her scenes. She knows what to do.
For Jacko, obviously his character is as a bystander because he didn't get to see all the horror that she (Liu) saw, so his character is kind of the opposite of Jesseca's character. Nevertheless, his performance was very well-controlled and stable. It was a very measured and consistent performance, it was not too much or too little, just the right amount.
If I remember correctly, there is an intimate scene in the film. Since this is the first time both of you acted together, how did you do it?
Chiang: Actually there wasn't supposed to be a bed scene. The director decided to take out that part because both of our characters in the movie just recently lost our child and it wouldn't look nice. But during the shooting, the director had second thoughts; he figured that it might be good for my character to woo back his wife. So he decided to put back the bed scene.
How did you feel filming the bed scene?
Chiang: I thought "Maybe I should call my wife." Actually both of us wasn't particularly worried at that time, until the assistant director came and told us that there is going to be a sex scene instead of saying bed scene. And that made us nervous.
Liu: I used to act in a film where there is a bed scene. This plot of film actually changed quite a few times. I've read the whole script before, so I knew about it. I even discussed with the director whether we should include this scene.
Jacko Chiang listens to Liu explanation.
Did you initially refuse to play this scene?
Liu: No, I didn't refuse. I just want to know how far the director would want me to go as I need to prepare myself, which is why I need to know how the story goes. If it's rational and not too erotic then I'm okay with it.
I see that you have adapted quite a number of literatures to film, if the literature consists of intimate scenes, will you still adapt it?
Lee: Well, all I can say is a good film is all about the story. A horror is not just about making people scared and a comedy is not just about making people laugh. It is all about the quality of the story. So if the literature has intimate scenes, it doesn't matter as long as the story is good.
"Bring Back the Dead" is now showing in Malaysia and Singapore.
Cinema Online, 08 January 2015