MVD Visual // 2010 // 81 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // December 9th, 2011
Enter Singapore's most haunted place...if you dare.
Early in 2010, a group of young filmmakers entered the notoriously haunted Old Changi Hospital in Singapore to try capturing some evidence of paranormal activity on tape. Not all of them made it out alive. Presented here is the footage they shot, edited together in an attempt to piece together what really took place behind those thick concrete walls.
Haunted Changi took me by surprise. What looked like a second-rate attempt at first-person horror turned out to be quite interesting, though not in typical horror film fashion. There's very little violence on display and almost no scares to speak of, but the film still builds solid tension by the sense of realism it brings to the table. Old Changi Hospital (OCH) is a real place and the tagline, rote as it may be, is actually true, at least by reputation. The hospital was set up as a military installation by British colonialists in the early 1930s, then used by the Japanese occupiers during World War II as a prison camp, where they were reputed to have tortured and killed many Allied soldiers. After the war, the site was used for multiple purposes and was shut down a few decades later, soon becoming a travel spot for drunken kids and graffiti artists. It was during this time that the stories started to come out about the strange occurrences in the facility.
Under these circumstances, our team of four documentarian investigators enters OCH, digital cameras and night-vision filters in tow, hoping to see what others are seeing. But first, they treat us to a series of man-on-the-street interviews with residents, mostly young people, about what they've experienced or heard about the place. Given the film's actual rep as a haunted house, I suspect that these interviews are real, more so because the story shows us nearly everything that gets described during them, even the ones that make no sense, like the idea that the place is a time travel wormhole. I like the idea of building a story around that on a certain level, but it becomes something of a mish-mash of ideas that's less focused than it could have been.
The first-person perspective is normal for the genre with the night vision stuff creepier than the regular footage and a lot of running around. It's disorienting, as it should be, but a little light on story. Director Andrew Lau shows more interest in events than actual plotting, which shows most at the end of the film, which comes out of nowhere and has little relevance to what we've previously seen. It's eerie and a few parts are a little unsettling, but it isn't scary in the least.
What is valuable about the Haunted Changi is the tour the audience gets of OCH, which really is a pretty creepy place. The purported torture chamber and underground barracks are cool to see and it's easy to understand how the massive vaulted ceilings and open air terraces could evoke the supernatural. I supposed I'm mixed on it as a traditional film, but there's enough to like here that I mostly see it as a success.
Haunted Changi gets a pretty solid release from MVD, who are not always known for pretty solid releases. The image is a mixed bag. Since there are a number of cameras in a number of settings, there is a varying level of quality, though it's all fairly clear and the transfer is solid throughout. The sound mix is definitely average, though. There's no noise, but levels are almost always changing. It's not too bad, but it's not as good as it should be. For extras, we have an archive of the film crew's "blog" and the first three chapters of a book about the doomed production, all of which is intended to add extra realism to the film. Finally, nearly half an hour of WWII archival footage is very interesting to see, though not terribly relevant to the film.
It's not an incredible film and parts of it make no sense, but Haunted Changi is a tense film that is certainly worth watching. I liked getting to see the street footage of Singapore and the general sense of realism in the film. It is more of a curiosity than anything, though, but one that I can marginally recommend.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: MVD Visual
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 81 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Archival Footage
* Text Feature
* Official Site
* Crew Blog
* Old Changi Hospital