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Interchange, the latest film from Malaysian director Dain Said (Bunohan) is a dark, fantasy noir, featuring a realm of the supernatural lurking just behind the veil of the modern world. Has Malaysia found its own version of Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrith or Alan Parker’s Angel Heart?

While investigating a series of ritualistic murders involving shattered old glass photography plates where the victims blood was drained from their bodies, “Metro Polis” Detective Man (Shaheizy Sam) seeks assistance from his friend Adam (Iedil Putra). A former police forensics’ photographer, Adam is reluctant at first, due to past problems with the pressures of the job, pressures that come to bear again as he becomes wrapped up in mysteries and visions surrounding the old photos and an enigmatic indigenous tribe.

Old world and the new

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Adam’s life is further complicated by the arrival of the beautiful Iva, a woman he has been somewhat creepily spying on from his apartment. She too has an interest in glass plate photography. Has Iva got some connection to the photographs and the murders? What is her interest in Adam? What is her connection, if any, to the other photograph hunters Sani (Nadiya Nisaa) and Belian (Nicholas Saputra), and what’s up with Belian’s weird hands?

Interchange is to be lauded for it’s ambition in trying something different but unfortunately it doesn’t quite hit the mark. While it cleverly handles it’s supernatural elements and does so in an adult manner without having to resort to teenage or child protagonists, it can end up leaving audiences somewhat confused.

It’s one thing to utilise dreamlike logic in your film, for effect or to get the audience into the same head-space as a confused protagonist, but by the end of the film so many questions had built up that I felt like a reel was missing from the film.

Wait, what?

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An early example is the first proper “meet cute” of Iva and Adam. While the two have made eye contact across their balconies, they bump in the street and Iva drops something which Adam retrieves and attempts to return to her. All well and good, however it’s never really clear why they join together to go to the next scene after this. This may seem like minor quibble it but after a while these inconsistencies start to pile up.

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Some character’s initially mysterious interactions and motivations make little sense given revelations about them later in the film. One characters switching of sides almost passed me by completely, as it was not clear which side they were on in the first place. That the film then continues without referencing this at all, just adds to the confusion.

While these plot issues detracted from my enjoyment of the fim, Interchange is by no means a bad film. It should inspire a lot of conversation after watching the film.  Said should be applauded for trying something new in the fantasy space that can be dominated  locally by J-horror ripoffs and slapstick comedies.

Vicarious Visions

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While not set in KL (for reasons that should be clear to anyone who is aware of the restrictions on the local film industry) the film is clearly filmed here, joining Pekak in the ranks of films released this year that had scenes shot by my own back gate.

It also does an admirable job of avoiding clichéd shots of the city. The immediately recognisable Twin Towers barely appear, only creeping into the side of the frame at here and there. A rooftop confrontation between two characters in the rain even seems to homage the climax of Blade Runner.

Interchange’s noir drenched streets, all striking colours and contrasts, are a breath of dark, fresh air that will hopefully inspire other local filmmakers to attempt different approaches to filming the region.

Aiming far, far higher than just another cookie cutter horror movie Said cannot be faulted for not creating a modern classic but Interchange is a great step along the way.

Starring:  Prisia Nasution, Iedil Putra, Shaheizy Sam, Nicholas Saputra, Nadiya Nisaa, Alvin Wong, Chew Kin Wah, Junad M.Nor

Directed by:  Dain Said

Official Site here.