Though horror seems to be a crowd-favourite genre, adding the comedic element to the films have also become the staple of many horror storylines that exist today. The key of a good comedic horror film is established through the right balance between the exaggeration and absurdity of humour with the excessive terror of the horror genre. On the subject of Hairul Azreen’s genre-blending horror comedy “Ada Hantu”, though, the balance was certainly on the right course and almost hitting the target.
The film stars local celebrities Zahiril Adzim, Shiqin Kamal, Hairul Azreen, Elvina Chua, and Nafiez Zaidi. Prior to its premiere on 13th August, the local crowd initially reserved low expectations for the film due to the poster design that was not entirely convincing to captivate the audience. Although the main poster of the film is not exactly spellbinding, as the saying goes, “Don’t judge a movie by its poster” and Hairul Azreen managed to prove his capability as a director. We initially had our own reservations as well but we are happy to report that “Ada Hantu” conclusively did not disappoint.
“Ada Hantu” follows the story of Aliff (Zahiril Adzim), a YouTuber who is very skeptical of all things supernatural, especially ghosts. His bragging and over-confident attitude make him quite intolerable among his friends. To prove that ghosts are not real, he challenged his friends, Bariah (Shiqin Kamal), Talha (Hairul Azreen), Sasha (Elvina Chua), and Jimmy (Nafiez Zaidi) to spend the night at any location believed to be haunted. Bariah then suggested for them to spend a night in an old abandoned house near her village — rumoured to have been once owned by a Japanese general who had brutally tortured and murdered everyone around him. As the night progresses, strange and eerie things occurs and as Aliff loses sight of his friends, he soon realises that the house is not all that he imagined it to be.
The plot of the film is not entirely original but the uniqueness of this film was certainly highlighted in the twist and turn of the storyline that can intrigue viewers’ curiosity and put them at the edge of their seat. The film’s horror elements lie in the form of suspense and not the typical jumpscare-centric films. The slow pacing of the exposition part is a build up to a much more exciting narrative structure in the second half of the film. The tone of the film changed from horror to comedy in the second half of the film and that is when the twist happened, resulting in a rather non-ordinary and non-typical horror film.
The transition of horror to comedy was done well with the comedic aspects of the film which blended nicely and naturally within the staging of horror scenes without it being overly cringe or excessive. The appearance of comical acts by Theeban and Henley Hii was certainly memorable and proved to be hilarious. Despite some awkward acting by the cast, the role fits quite perfectly with each cast member and there is not much to comment on the acting as the character balances well with not only each other but also with the plot.
The cinematography of the plot deserves a mention as the scenes were captured beautifully in every angle along with the lighting and music scores that further solidifies the haunting mood of the film. Another interesting aspect of the film is the attempt to incorporate and represent Malaysian ethnicities as much as possible. The film does not shy away in mentioning not only the Malay-centric myths and superstitious beliefs but it also includes the citing of other ethnics such as the Chinese and Indian beliefs or taboos. It certainly shows how Malaysia is rich and imbued with diversity and the film serves as representation of that aspect.
As mentioned earlier, the exposition part of the narrative was quite slow with lengthy and dull scenes. The transition of the story — from the characters’ plotting their mission to the scene at the haunted house is a bit draggy. The earlier part of the scene focused too much on the content creating aspect for Zahiril Adzim’s Alif character that it could bore the audience and make them lose attention on the film. If the terrifying element was added much earlier and the exposition part shortened, we believe that the plot will be much more engrossing.
As far as local films go, “Ada Hantu” certainly reached a remarkable point of what we expected to achieve for a Malaysia horror comedy film production. The horror and comedy mode was on point and it should keep less critical viewers a watching experience that they might enjoy. Kudos to Hairul Azreen for a rather successful directorial debut and Adrian Teh for the excellent screenplay.
For those interested to watch, “Ada Hantu” is currently available exclusively on Disney+ Hotstar. You can check out our full interview with the cast here.