Production Talk with Tony Kern on 'Afterimages'

The makers of ‘Blair-witchesque’ Haunted Changi are back with a more scripted, and cinematically varied horror movie this time called ‘After Images’. A collection of horror films appear in the ashes after a group of friends burn paper effigy cameras as offerings to the dead, 5 to be exact, each playing on different folklore or superstitions. Here is the synopses of the 5 filmlets:

The first film, GHOST POOL LEG, revolves around the Chinese superstition "guei la jiao" - in which ghosts are believed to pull swimmers’ legs to drown them.

The second film, XIAO BAO BAO, focuses on a young woman's haunting experience after taking a postmortem photograph of a suicide jumper.

The third film, SKIN DEEP, finds a group of shoppers stuck in a mall elevator with a mysterious and beautiful woman (picture below) who holds a terrible secret.

The fourth film, REKINDLING, features a heartbroken hawker, a missing China bride, a mysterious ring, and a suddenly popular dish called "lady's fingers" that combine for a gruesome tale.

The fifth film, BURNT OFFERINGS, is the most horrifying and dangerous but we will not post spoilers here.

From his first film ‘A Month of Hungry Ghosts’ to ‘’Afterimages’, its been a journey through ‘hell’ and other spooky realms for director Tony Kern (pictured above looking up). He must have covered the whole spectrum of Singapore’s tales from the twilight zone. We caught up with Tony for his story on making ‘Afterimages’.

What lessons that you have learnt from creating "Haunted Changi" that you have applied in the making of "Afterimages"? 

I had actually written most of AFTERIMAGES before I shot HAUNTED CHANGI and the approach to each is so different that almost nothing from the experience of HC could be carried over to AFTERIMAGES.  I've really learned a great deal from AFTERIMAGES that would be applied to any future films I would be responsible for producing however.

I guess the biggest lessen I've really learned at this point, it that it is not financially sustainable for me to make another movie like AFTERIMAGES unless there is a miracle in the near future.

In the course of shooting "Afterimages", did any bizarre incidents occur on set? Possibly anything that can be incorporated into the film itself? 

Nothing that I am aware of happened on set.  I know it is popular to promote that something strange happened on set during the filming of a horror movie -- but I've got nothing.  The scares are all inside of the movie itself.

However, there is one shot taken while the cast stands in front of a burning camera and the shot cranes up and dollies forward.  During the shot some beautiful fire reflections appear on the lens -- they look like phantasmic images of spirits… but they are only lens reflections.  

The second story "Xiao Bao Bao", was based on an occurrence that happened to me personally here in Singapore.  A woman fell to her death right outside my apartment.  I was the first one to see her.  Most of what happens in the "Xiao Bao Bao" story was exactly what happened to me (with the exception of all the ghost appearances of course.)  I was literally haunted by the incident and became obsessed with uncovering all information about the woman who fell.  I did in fact find something that belonged to the woman later, just like in the story.  I watched everything unfold below in the parking lot after her death that afternoon.  I visited the 29th floor where she had jumped and peered over and felt that pull we usually feel when looking over the edge.  Depressed, I imagined bodies falling from buildings -- just like the character does.  I was greatly effected by it all for a long time.  I wrote the story in the days following the jumper's death.  However, I moved away a year later.  After 3 years away, I actually moved BACK to the same original apartment and filmed the story.  I tried to recreate everything as it happened -- same exact location of the body, the references, the chain of events all recreated as they had unfolded.  When we filmed it, we prayed and I felt the presence of the woman in my mind.  The story is for her.  I hope she finds peace and can move on.

What is the most noteable idea that you have rejected when brainstorming for ideas for the five films? 

I rejected any idea that did not strike me as uniquely Singaporean or that didn't make me think it was inevitably tied to Singapore.  I had 30 stories to choose from, but I had to find 5 that fit together nicely.  I hope to tell the others someday, but of course that depends on how Afterimages is received.  But I think there are some really spooky and interesting stories currently waiting to be given life. 

Could you tell us more about the Free App on your website and its role in the marketing of "Afterimages"? 

The graphic novel app is a motion comic of the first story in Afterimages -- "Ghost Pool Leg," and it revolves around the Chinese superstition (gui la jiao) in which ghosts are believed to pull swimmers legs in order to drown them.  A cocky expat voyeur faces off with a security guard over his late night swimming excursions in search of the "midnight swimmer."

The incredible artwork was done by JC Wong, with animation by Yizhi Ang and programming done by YiFei Boon.  American author Andre Duza adapted from my original screenplay.

In addition to the graphic novel portion there is a 360 degree virtual world "Find the Ghost".

I thought the graphic novel app was really cool, but I don't think many people know about it or have tried it unfortunately.  It's available for iPad and Androids.  There is a "Lite" version with only the 360 "Find the Ghost" for mobile phones.  

It's all free.  I hope people try out the graphic novel on the tablet.  I thought it was well done.  A lot of work went into it.  Ya, it ties to the movie, and it was supposed to help us promote the film, but knowing that no one has really seen it… I guess, that's strike one. 

Which horror films do you draw your inspiration from? 

For AFTERIMAGES it was mainly THE TWILIGHT ZONE and TALES FROM THE CRYPT TV shows as well as Japanese ghost anthology KWAIDAN (1960s).   Also, original Thai horror movie SHUTTER, many horror anthologies, and of course the usual citations:  THE SHINING, THE THING, RINGU, JU-ON.  

Perhaps even more than movies, the heart of the inspiration revolves around hundreds of short horror anthology books I've read in the past, along with the original KWAIDAN by Lafadio Hearn, TALES OF MOONLIGHT AND RAIN by Ueda Akinari, even STRANGE TALES OF LIAOZHAI by Pu Songlin and finally, TALES FROM THE MIDNIGHT HOUR by J.B. Stamper which I read as a kid.  But ya, I'm still a kid.

All these influences helped me shape the Singapore stories I wanted to tell with AFTERIMAGES.

What is your favourite Singapore horror urban legend and does it serve as a source of inspiration in the making of "Afterimages"? 

With AFTERIMAGES, I tried to create my own urban legends based on cyclical events that happen in Singapore.  For example, things that are more likely to happen in Singapore rather than the US -- like people falling/jumping off high rise buildings, body parts in the canal, certain blackmagic practices, and of course, burning offerings for the spirits.  

IF there is ever a continuation of the stories, they will start to address widely held urban legends here like various Malay hantu and of course the infamous Pontianak.  I guess, for a favorite I'd have to go with the popular pontianak and it's banana tree origin.  I've alway like that.  And I have at least a half-dozen pontianak movie ideas lurking in the background.

If you are to shoot a realistic scene of a character burning an actual camera, how would you go about to do so? 

If would definitely have to be a time-lapse sequence if it was going to be a real motion picture camera!  Lots of gasoline.  If it were in America, we'd probably just blow it up.

If you received a challenge to rewrite one of the stories as a Comedy, which would you pick? Please also provide a short response to the challenge. 

I think the fourth story "Rekindling" already has some comical elements -- so I'd choose that one.  The "reunion" of the characters certainly has plenty of opportunity for comedy if it were done with a different spin, especially if they tried to sit down and work on their relationship together with a marriage counsellor.   Hmm… we might have just come up with a horromedy angle for a sequel.

Though Asia has a whole has gained a fearsome reputation for producing blood-curling horror films, each Asian culture has its distinctive approach to the horror genre. What do you think distinguished Singapore horror films from other Asian horror films? 

Well, for me, with Singapore it's West-meets-East as Singapore has become an international hub and their are a great deal of foreigners here. It's the introduction of the cultural practices to the foreigners and the local flavor of the supernatural and how the local character deal with the situations.

Which horror subgenres are you likely to attempt next? 

If forced to choose, I'd probably have to settle with the "found footage" or POV genre -- for better or worse.  I would love to make an extravagant big-budget ghost story epic like A CHINESE GHOST STORY or a big monster movie like THE HOST or GODZILLA or perhaps even Sci-Fi horror, but I'm pretty sure the financial reality of my situation would force another low-budget entry… if I get the chance to make another movie.

Learn more about Afterimages at

Here is the trailer.

Cathay-Keris Films is the Singapore theatrical distributor of AFTERIMAGES. The film opened on 11 September 2014 islandwide in all major movie theatres.. 

The AFTERIMAGES app is free and available for download on iPad and Android tablets: HYPERLINK "" 
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