To be honest, it wasn’t a movie I would have gone to watch on my own. The trailer was less than impressive, and being a die-hard horror film buff (even though I’m darn scared of them) I’d seen more than enough mirror-related Asian horrors.
Have you ever wondered who is looking back at you in the mirror?
‘Cos I am lazy to summarise the movie, here’s the official synopsis:
Chermin is a horror/suspense thriller about a woman who is haunted by a vengeful spirit trapped in an antique mirror. The plot centers on Nasrin (Natasha Hudson), whose face has been disfigured from a ‘mysterious’ car accident. When her mother Kak Siti (Khatijah Tan) discovers an antique mirror hidden amongst old family heirlooms, Nasrin finds herself strangely drawn to it. Nasrin’s fascination with the mirror turns into obsession and she starts taking on the persona of the mirror spirit, Mastura (Deanna Yusoff). On her quest to regain her past beauty, Nasrin submits herself to the mirror spirit by satisfying the mirror’s need for blood and revenge. Will she able to sacrifice love for vanity? Is she able to look inside herself and see the beauty within? Or is what is reflected in her heart a shadow of the mirror?
Dayum, I hate gossiping villagers too…
The good: The haunting score was awesome, and definitely brought the movie to another level. Sort of like a Red Violin vibe. Award-winning composer Adelina Wong delivered; and hers is a name I will look out for in future. Sound effect/production was also excellent, and I am glad that CHERMIN had the expertise of Addaudio in this area. From the batch of local movies I’ve been watching, I noticed that the ones where they had a hand in was always good when it comes to sound. It may seem a trivial matter to some, but BELIEVE me it is most important in the delivery of the movie. I am sure that most of you have watched movies where the lips don’t sync with the words. That sucks.
The director also use lots of colours in her movie: the combination of that with lighting effects is something I find visually pleasing and different. Reminded me of Hero. I loved the wardrobe, especially those worn by Deanna Yusoff — very traditional, so beautiful, rich in colours and quality (well you could tell if something is expensive). Visual effects were also above average, except for some surreal parts where it seems as if watercolour was dripping down from the edge of the screen.
The set/location was quite good and beautiful as well. The movie was shot in Janda Baik in Pahang; I don’t know exactly where it is, but I would assume it has lots of trees and small roads, perfect as a backdrop. I love the furniture used in the movie. I want some of that (not the mirror though, my own mirror scares me enough as it is).
The car accident scene was done very well. At first I had thought it was a CGI — but then I learnt that it was a real car being wrecked by a trained stuntman. Woah, that’s gotta hurt the pockets
There are some scenes that I felt were really good, for example when the group of women were present for the doa selamat, and when Nasrin eavesdropped on the gossiping villagers.
Khatijah Tan is a top-rate actress. She should get a Suanie Award.
Movie stills from CHERMIN
The OK: The storyline is not something drastically different from what is already present in the movie horror scene. Honestly speaking, I feel that after Shutter, most other shock factors pale in comparison. Well maybe that shouldn’t be a comparison basis; after all Thai movies are so far ahead than ours. But we can always strive to jump the queue, right?
The exorcism ritual reminded me of the famous scene in The Exorcist when the girl was screaming and speaking in a manly voice. Except this one was blood-overload, kinda scary. And the eyes, omg. Give me a choice between a ghost with long hair and a ghost with scary eyes, and I would run to embrace the former. Well of course I would try to run away from both if I could help it…
I would put most of the acting in this OK category, with the exception of Khatijah Tan. Some are OK not bad, some are OK tolerable, some are OK get on with it.
Shit, blood everywhere!!!
The Bad: What’s with the CGI lizard-like devil running around here and there? I felt that was unnecessary, and unintentionally brought comic relief to an otherwise ok horror movie. I couldn’t help but to be reminded of Constantine whenever the thing appeared on screen, and that is not so good because I think Constantine is a damn excellent movie. So after CHERMIN I went home and watched Constantine on DVD. Keanu Reeves can’t act to save his life, but I’d forgive him anyday if he would be the father of my children. Or maybe not, don’t really want my kids to turn out blank and stupid.
Well, I don’t really want kids, period, but that is besides the point.
There was one scene that stupefied me. Hypothetically, if you see your girlfriend appearing out of nowhere in your house in the middle of the night, wearing a nightgown drenched in blood with a zombie look on her face, you would scream and go WTF WTF WTF, right? I don’t know if it is overpowering love and affection that caused Yusuf to calmly express himself along the lines of, “Nazrin, are you ok? Nazrin? Nazrin? Nazrin??” but I doubt it.
Speaking of Yusuf, he was played by Farid Kamil. I was trying to remember why he looked so familiar and where the heck I’d seen him before. Now I remember. Protagonist in Remp-It!!! Sorry, couldn’t place him without the helmet, the bike and the bad lip-synching.
Me, Sultan Muzaffar and Pinkpau with the director of CHERMIN, Zarina Abdullah
We had coffee with Zarina Abdullah, the director of CHERMIN before the movie. I learnt that it was her debut feature film, and I’d say that overall, CHERMIN was quite impressive for a first-time director. Congrats congrats, especially on CHERMIN being accepted at the Udine Far East Film Festival in Italy.
Zarina admitted that she is a shy and soft-spoken person in nature. We learnt that she hails from Kuching, has a civil engineering degree and masters in IT from UK, and prior to CHERMIN had only directed shorts.
I asked her if there was any supernatural incidents on set and she said yes, there were some weird stuff happening. Not to her, but to her actresses and crew. Apparently something was even caught on screen; she didn’t realise it until the post-production guys pointed it out to her. I didn’t notice it, but it was a whitish presence in a car scene that was definitely not supposed to be there.
When asked why she chose to do a horror when the current market is saturated with similar movies, she said that when she did the movie, there weren’t much around, except for the Pontianak Harum Sundal Malam series. It was only recently that we have horrors such as Syaitan, Jangan Pandang Belakang etc so must be a coincidence.
Why spell it CHERMIN and not ‘cermin’? Because the story is based on an old mirror and Zarina wanted the old spelling to reflect its antiquity.
What’s her all-time favourite movies? The Exorcist (naturally), Shawshank Redemption, basically the classics. Zarina said she would have a hard time writing a love story, so maybe later.
TV Smith asked Sultan Muzaffar if he thinks the Yusof Haslam era was over, and the latter said yes. Thank the gods.
I liked Zarina; she was nice, friendly and pleasant. And like I said, CHERMIN was quite an impressive debut for a first-time director — she is only 27 years old to boot! Here’s looking forward to more Zarina Abdullah movies. Go Go GOoOOOOoo!!!!