new movie Shadowplay
- in a few words, what is it about?
novice P.I. is hired to seek an enigmatic woman whose vanishing is linked
to his childhood trauma which manifests as evil entities in the present.
His investigation merges with the pages of a Fighting Fantasy-like
gamebook that he discovered. Yeah, it gets pretty phantasmagoric.
sure is a genre bender, but in key elements it resembles film noir rather
closely - so is that a genre at all dear to you, and some of your genre
was my obsession when I became cinematically literate in my teens. The
dark side of Americana spoke to me. I wanted it to become my field of
study. Shadowplay is basically an extension of my student films and theory
papers in college. I love Kiss Me Deadly, Laura and
The Long Goodbye
immensely. I think they had some latent/subtle influence on this flick, but
the aesthetics of 80’s neo-noir like Thief or To Live and Die in L.A.
are more directly referenced.
(Other) sources of inspiration when writing Shadowplay?
guiding light was Twin Peaks in the 90’s. I sought to transpose its
elements and themes to an Asian milieu, but Mulholland Drive helped to
craft those ideas into a Moebius-strip narrative.
revisited Dennis Potter’s The Singing Detective for its “confront the
past to heal the present” framework and drew from Grant Morrison
(especially Animal Man) for the metafiction aspect, but The NeverEnding
Story became the main template. It is a Lynchian noir reimagining of it!
can you tell us about your co-writers Khairil M. Bahar and Magdelen
Spooner, and what was your collaboration like?
pals! Khai is a fellow filmmaker who I regard as Kevin Smith’s Malaysian
Big Nothing was the first screenplay that we co-wrote. I did the
story/treatment and he adapted it into a script that was retitled Detective Ex Machina (wordplay on deus ex machina).
is a Brit novelist who polished the dialog for the final version that
extent could you actually identify with Shadowplay's
lead character Anton Shaw, and did you base him in any way or form on
hit the Freudian nail on the Jungian noggin! I believe that every director
is entitled to one “wank” in order to establish their signature. Who I
am became the blueprint for Shadowplay.
is a cathartic projection but the film is my alter-ego. It is hence my
most introspective and personal effort. Now that it is out of my system, I
just want to make fun grindhouse flicks!
is rather labyrinthine in its narrative approach - so how easy or hard was
it to not get (literally) lost in the plot?
drafts over a 10-year gestation period! The screenplay was even wilder and
more cryptic in its earlier incarnations but once we stripped it all down,
it was easier to navigate its surreal stream of consciousness. So after
being in my head for a decade, I knew the storyline as well as the way to
my apartment. It is actually linear but in a circular path instead of a
What can you
tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?
the story is composed of dream logic, I directed with intuition more than
conventional sense. In other words, I took acid. I encourage viewers to
experience the film in the same way.
talk about Shadowplay's
key cast, and why exactly these people?
chose Tony Eusoff to play Anton because it was destiny. He has an old
school vibe that is like matinee masculinity laced with vulnerability; a
fragile Steve McQueen. When Juria Hartmans was cast, she was as alluring
as Lamya; demure in an unearthly manner that evoked Jennifer Connelly in Phenomena. I wanted Megat Sharizal as Dan for both gravitas and levity. It
was without question that a veteran talent like Radhi Khalid would compel
us as The Gaunt Man.
A few words
about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
an indie production, we threw ourselves into the fire by packing a 3-week
shoot into 10 days of principal photography. It almost killed us!
Thankfully, there was nothing but love and support for each other and a
collective belief in creating something unique to pull us through.
you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Shadowplay
current rating on IMDb is a bit depressing, but I expected that Shadowplay
wouldn’t please general viewers for both subjective and valid reasons.
However, most of the reviews that are published online are pretty positive
and audience reaction at screenings were encouraging. It won for best
feature at the Malaysian Digital Film Awards. The nation’s most renowned
critic, Hassan Muthalib, listed Shadowplay
as the best local film of 2019.
It’s not all doom and gloom!
Any future projects you'd like to share?
indie horrors that I co-directed! They are currently in post. One is
Safari Mall, a creature feature that is inspired by 80’s B-classics like
The Blob (1988), Chopping
Mall, Demons or
Night of the Creeps. It is
positioned for the Malaysian market, but the other flick, The Dark Eye, is
targeting worldwide digital/streaming distribution. All I can say for now
is that it is something like John Carpenter meets Rosemary’s Baby with
martial arts. I kid you not. Just wait and see!
got you into making movies in the first place, and did you receive any
formal training on the subject?
blame it on a compulsive addiction to VHS rentals as a kid. At some point
in high school, I decided that becoming a filmmaker was the only way to
recreate my adolescent daydreams.
to Bad Taste and Evil Dead 2 incepted the idea but it was
Blue Velvet that
inspired me to take it seriously. My parents probably knew that I was
throwing my life away but they still got me into Emerson College. I
graduated as a film major and I have suffered ever since!
As far as I know you are
originally from Boston but make movies in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - so how
did this come about?
from Boston is frankly a hyperbole (LOL), but that city shaped me in my
am a “third culture kid”, which means that I was raised in various
countries with Malaysia as my motherland. There was a faster route to
enter the field here than in the US, so I chose to build my career in Kuala
Lumpur because it was a smaller and growing industry. Half of me remained in
Beantown spiritually. Shadowplay
echoes this condition of feeling lost
between two worlds.
What can you tell us about your
filmwork prior to Shadowplay?
first forays into features were with segments in two indie anthologies:
Cuak (Malaysian) and Train Station (international). The latter had a
decent run in overseas and stateside film festivals and scored a few
awards. Before Shadowplay
was released, I co-directed a Chinese action
flick (Red Storm) and was main director/showrunner of a thriller web
would you describe yourself as a director?
a gen X geek whose only ambition in showbiz is to make the kinds of movies
that he grew up loving … and hopefully earn a living from it! It is
either that or working in a pet store.
who inspire you?
Lynch, Michael Mann and Sergio Leone are the holy trinity. Shadowplay
my shrine to the former two. “If Lynch married 80’s-era Mann and their
baby was a direct-to-VHS B movie” encapsulates the initial concept, but I
subconsciously channeled Dario Argento in the process.
Your favourite movies?
many! I’ll narrow it down to the flicks that are relevant to Shadowplay.
Inland Empire is the most intense and transcendent Lynch experience for
me, so I wanted to capture that fever dream essence in our own little way.
Manhunter is my single favorite film because it’s the one that has
consistently informed my directorial work. I tried to emulate its style in
and of course, films you really deplore?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
easy to please! I enjoy bad and good movies in equal measure but my
tolerance is lowering for horror films that are incessantly dependent on
jump scares. They’re so fucking boring now.
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
https://www.27tenproductions.com/shadowplay for the movie’s digital/VOD
links and to purchase its awesome synthwave soundtrack by Stellar
Our social media sites are: https://www.facebook.com/ShadowplayMovie/
for the interview!