Ceroboh, streaming on Netflix, is an unsatisfying journey into the post apocalypse

Ceroboh, streaming on Netflix, is an unsatisfying journey into the post apocalypse

Kuman Pictures’ latest entry – available for streaming on Netflix – is a middling alien invasion thriller

THE first ten seconds of Feisal Azizuddin’s Ceroboh (The Screaming Sky), from Kuman Pictures and now available to stream on Netflix, ended up being more memorable for me than the remaining 90 minutes.

Empty highways, cracked windows on skyscrapers, and a bustling city like Kuala Lumpur – which is often gridlocked by traffic and movement abandoned of any activity – is fascinating to observe. Danny Boyle perfected it in 2002’s ‘zombie’ classic 28 Days Later and Ceroboh offers the low-budget, Malaysian alternative. The effects are cheesy, but effective nonetheless. The allusion to Kuala Lumpur (unfortunately) all but ends there, as a drone shot establishes the actual setting of this movie, which are abandoned shophouses somewhere on the outskirts of the city.

Gears shift as the story centers on Aisyah (Mia Sarah Shauki), a young woman who while on a scavenging bid, is assailed at gunpoint by a masked man. She defends herself, impressively, but in the attempt falls outside of the building. Screeching sounds emanating from the sky end up incapacitating both of them.

A time jump happens, and we see Aisyah examining newspaper clippings and notes on the mysterious phenomenon that is causing mass hallucinations and hypnosis. Aliens or a strange being, dubbed the Sky Beast is suspected to be the origin of these events. Being outdoors is no longer safe, so everyone stays indoors.

Aisyah lives with five other people, banding together to share resources. The group is led by Wei Ling (Grace Ng) who is the resident doctor and medical professional. While returning from scavenging however, Darrell (Sasidaran Subramaniam), one of the five, dies from a physical injury. He returns as a zombie, a result of being under the mind control of the Sky Beast and the group subsequently faces the difficult decision of killing him again.

Zhang Zhen (Kent Tan) volunteers, but the act of killing a friend traumatises and haunts him. He starts having nightmares and goes into a catatonic state. Other supporting characters of the group are Yasmin (Nia Atasha), Darrell’s sister and Ameer (Syazani Zikri), the go-to tech whiz.

Aisyah seems to be the only person who is immune to the mind control of the Sky Beast for reasons no one understands. Living under complete lockdown, and under tight rations, means that they would have to eventually either go out on more patrols to find more food or leave the building entirely.

The characters within the group itself, despite living together for a long time, share no chemistry with each other. No hints of conflicting interests, a budding romance, sexual tensions, or a collective destiny. Their narrative arcs and dialogues are mechanical and perfunctory, being read and performed as if bullet points on the summary of a pitch deck.

The stand-out here is Tan’s performance as Zhang Zhen, who despite paper-thin material and not having anything to chew on, exaggerates the punches which at least proves to be entertaining. He embodies the menace needed as the defacto villain of the movie. The purgatory scene, in which he is caught in a loop of his own nightmares, is especially inspired.

The only two Indian characters play the role of a faceless mugger and a zombie – classic. This imagery is so ubiquitous in Malaysian media that the creators of the movie probably did not give the casting of these roles a second thought, and what its implications are.

The movie ends the way it started, with none of the questions being answered and loose ends being tied off. Is the Sky Beast a metaphor for mental illness? Body dysmorphia? The alienation of Malay people? Malaysia’s neoliberalist policies? Who knows! In the end, the metaphor is so emaciated and hollow that it could function as a stand-in for almost anything.

The movie shares a tone to M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening, which was heavily derided by critics during its release but has found footing as a cult, B-movie in the age of climate change. Ceroboh will unlikely enjoy a similar fate.

source – The Vibes


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