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HISTERIA frenzy

Writer: Syahida Kamarudin


Restless spirits at the "Histeria" premiere

HISTERIA. Although it may be a common word in the other parts of the planet defining it as 'madness' or 'frenzy', but on this side of the region however, the term means more than just the usage to describe, let's say, a woman's expressive feeling towards a Prada bag. In the Malay culture, hysteria connotes a deeper sadistic meaning. Hysteria in itself is a disease, be it heaved onto oneself through his/her mistakes, or an act of hatred by people through the means of black magic.

What triggers hysteria? According to Datuk Dr. Amran Kasimin, a lecturer of Islamic studies in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, hysteria can occur based on two factors - stress or disturbance. When a person is stressed out with work, relationship or school, for example, it is easy to lose yourself and become more vulnerable for the spirits to cross the threshold of your soul. Meanwhile, disturbance involves cases such as using black magic while in training for martial arts, traditional dances and e

However, Professor Dr Mohamad Hussain Habil, the Head of Psychology and Medicine of University of Malaya, believes that the issue lies within people's belief in mystical and paranormal brouhahas. Although cultural shock might have a role in it, most hysteria cases are psychological.

And based on this two opposing yet similar definition, the premise of "HISTERIA" materialised. Directed by James Lee, it tells a story of six girls who call themselves 'The Pink Ladies'. Meaning for it to be a joke, the girls staged a fake hysteria that puts the whole school in frenzy. However, they got caught and were punished to clean up the whole school for a week during their term break. Things started to turn awry when one by one, the girls were murdered except for Murni. Now she is to face accusations for being responsible for all the killings. Meanwhile, the psychiatrist believes that Murni is mentally ill, suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. But is she?


James Lee (fourth from right) along with "The Pink Ladies" from the film

Feel the wrath of the 'hantu raya'

According to James Lee, "After accepting the offer from Tayangan Unggul, scriptwriter Amri and I took two months to do some research about 'hantu raya' (a common spirit in the old Malay society, referring to a supreme ghost or demon that acts as a double for a black magic practitioner) in order to get a better understanding about the belief. The ghost that was featured in here is called 'jembalang busut'. I was surprised that many people are not aware of this entity and it seems that this subject was not much talked about in any films or TV dramas. That's why we took the element and worked it from there on."

In the movie, the character Murni, played by Liyana Jasmay, recites a mantra that is supposedly a call to the 'jembalang busut', which will lead to a series of horrifying events. James believed that although there are a lot of horror movies already in the market, his movie would be appreciated, as local audiences love this genre.

With a production cost of RM1.4 million, "HISTERIA" can be classified in the same category with Hollywood horrors of the 80s such as "Evil Dead" and "Friday the 13th". These films consist of horror elements but at the same time took on a simpler approach. Other than adopting an Asian twist through 'hantu raya', James also used very little lighting to enhance the mood of the film.

"HISTERIA" will be haunting cinemas 18 December 2008!


Cinema Online, 23 December 2008

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