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Jul 24, 2021
Izzat Haziq

The Kuman Horror Picture Show


Horror is a very subjective matter. To some, the sheer realisation of waking up late in the morning for work brings unspeakable terror to them. While others agree that driving on a long stretch of desolate road is extremely anxiety-inducing. It’s safe to say that sometimes, the things that send shivers down our spine may well be hiding in plain sight— we just have to squint our eyes hard enough to see them.

As the word “new normal” gradually loses meaning in the second half of 2021 and what seems to be the final (fingers crossed) leg of the pandemic, we still find ourselves seeking refuge in our homes, away from a highly infectious respiratory disease. It’s forgivable for one to find themselves falling into a slump—a dark spot where productivity level is at an all-time low, and those creative juices just seem to cease flowing. But lest we forget, the Renaissance era gave birth to some of the world’s greatest artistic creations.

In Reel Time

#KumanPicturesChallenge2 stands as a testament to how sometimes the best ideas come to fruition under the most unlikely circumstances. For the uninitiated, Kuman Pictures is a homegrown film company that, for the most part, produces wickedly satisfying low-budget horror and thriller films. Think: Blumhouse Productions but with nusantara sensibilities.

For context, #KumanPicturesChallenge2 is the follow-up for a short film challenge hosted by the production house in March 2020, hosted in conjunction with the Restricted Movement Order. The mechanics behind the challenge is quite straightforward: it’s open for anyone to join, there is no need for fancy equipment for you to start shooting, and the runtime should be around 1 to 10 minutes only. And oh, the central theme for the submissions is, of course, horror and thriller. Winner gets bragging rights and RM 1000 cash prize.

I managed to slid into their Twitter DMs to find out a little bit more about this:

What is the general reception for this year’s leg of #KumanPicturesChallenge?

There are fewer entries than that of the last year'. This may indicate that the current MCO is not that restrictive, and people had to go to work. Probably a higher percentage of technically-polished entries, however.

What are the expectations that you have set in terms of the submissions? 

What we sought in these short films were not just the technical skills but rather how creatively they reflected on Malaysia in the present time through a horror or thriller lens.

Any plans on making this a regional thing? And, will we be expecting #KumanPicturesChallenge for next year?

For now, it is an annual challenge for Malaysia only. We aren’t sure which month to kick this off yet, but definitely during the first half of the year.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but as of now, Kuman Pictures is hosting this challenge via YouTube. Do you plan on expanding the challenge into other platforms such as Instagram reels and TikTok? Perhaps something along the lines of bite-sized horror stories?

We’ll stick to YouTube. For now.

Any final words before we wrap this up? 

"What is a nation if not the stories it tells itself?"

Thank you so much for accommodating this short Q&A session. May I know whom I'm speaking to? Or do you prefer to remain anon?

Amir Muhammad.

And then it dawned to me that I was speaking to the man himself and not a social media intern that I based my assumption earlier on. But I digress.

And, Action!

On a cursory glance, most of the stories submitted for this round of the challenge revolve around the horrifying ordeal of the pandemic, and everything that ensues. Venture forth and you’ve got yourself a smorgasbord of blood, pocongs and all things that go bump in the night, neatly tucked in one place under this YouTube playlist.

Miswath pays a brilliant homage to the silent movie era—intertitle and all.
Found footage bit of New Normal answers your question of “What if Harmony Korine decided to shoot a film in Selangor?”
Hair-raising scene from Trepidation, one of the top 5 shortlisted submission for #KumanPicturesChallenge2.

The winning submission for this year’s #KumanPicturesChallenge2 is ا لم (Alam), directed by Taufiq Kamal. Without giving away too much of a spoiler, the three minutes short depicts the deteriorating state of one's mind in the absence of human presence. The short film packs a lot of punch in terms of storytelling and how it’s shot. It keeps the audience feeling unnerved as it slowly crescendos into a tragic (or cathartic, depending on your interpretation) ending. ا لم (Alam) is terrifying and ominous—the spook factor lingers long after the credit rolls.

We all have stories to tell. As much as it goes unnoticed, this innate nature runs deep within ourselves, and Kuman Pictures has done a stellar job at invoking it. Better hold on to your seat for next year’s round of this challenge, and head on down to their website to find out more about what they're currently up to.