Kelvin Tong lights joss sticks, explains horror movie to spirits

Director takes every precaution on film set

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Photos: Zara Zhuang, Golden Village

As an award-winning director who’s made a name for himself with horror hit The Maid and supernatural crime thriller Rule #1, Kelvin Tong doesn’t kid around when it comes to staying on the good side of the ‘good brothers.’

He found himself filming his latest spooky flick, The Faith of Anna Waters, during the Lunar Seventh Month (or Hungry Ghost Festival), just as many of his works, including his two previous horror films, had been.

Even if it isn’t a scarefest Kelvin is working on during that month (case in point: It’s a Great, Great World), his film crew have to be careful not to offend anyone from the spirit world. The production managers head to every filming location before shoots to make offerings and say prayers, he explained.

And when it’s a horror flick, the director, who has Buddhist leanings, lights joss sticks on location as a sign of respect. “I’ll explain to any spirits that we're just here making a show and it's fake,” he said. “It's no laughing matter.”

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Film still from The Faith of Anna Waters

Not immune
Kelvin was speaking to local media ahead of the Singapore gala premiere of The Faith of Anna Waters, which tells the story of an American journalist who travels to Singapore to investigate the mysterious suicide of her sister, and delves into one of Kelvin’s favourite horror subgenres: exorcism films.

“At first when I thought about it, it seemed impossible,” he said. But after casually texting friends working in the Catholic Church, he was told that there have been cases of demonic possession in Singapore. “So there's no reason not to make the film,” he said.

And if you thought a horror movie director would be immune to being spooked, you’d be wrong. According to Kelvin, out of his three films about the paranormal, The Faith of Anna Waters shook him the most.

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