By Michael Lim. Before you can say, "another local movie" and dismiss it, "Certified Dead", being an honest first time effort at movie production, by Doris Young, actually accomplishes several well deserved accolades. Young, better known by her nom de plume, Marie Lee, is best remembered for her 1970s role in the genre of action karate flick films "Cleopatra Wong" and shows that she can also be an accomplished movie producer and director in her inaugural feature film.
Considering that this is her first feature made with a shoe string budget of $44,000 and volunteer actors, it would be unfair to compare this with a Hollywood indie feature. Sure, there are areas for improvement but consider the difficulties and the learning curve the director, actors and script writers have to overcome to distill the end product of this feature, it is a triumphant accomplishment for Young and her crew.
Helmed by a cast of mainly Singaporean actors, it tells the story of Ian Lee, a middle aged man, who in his earnest to live long enough to provide for his family, becomes a "rodent" for an experimental new serum developed by his best friend Dr. Charles Moore, played by Richard Muru. The drug that is supposed to help sustain Ian's athletic pursuits but has other unintended side-effects. For starters it triggers Ian's adrenaline and ups his athleticism and pheromones. This triggers his boss Hilary, as she finds him suddenly the object of her sexual attraction. Hillary, played by Toni Ravelo, a Cuban Mexican actor, provides the love interest character to Michael Chua's Ian Lee.
Eventually the drug takes a toll on Ian's life and he suffers a heart attack, and supposedly drowns while swimming in the sea. But he is still walking around, seemingly alive only to be discovered by his doctor friend that he is actually dead and the serum is somehow sustaining his brain while the rest of his body is in a state of rigor mortis. Upon realizing this, Ian tries to fulfill his bucket list before the entirety of his body succumbs to complete decay.
The movie showcase some fine acting by Michael Chua, who is a veteran staple of several locally produced independent films. Ms Ravelo also has some scene stealing performances as Ian's boss who asks Ian to remain behind after a meeting, if only for a post conference tête-à-tête.
While being a generally dark drama, Certified Dead has some lighter moments, such as when the mediums visit to Ian's home in an attempt to exorcise him, and his supposed wake at the funeral parlour where he starts talking to his Doctor and his daughter Erin, played by an incredibly talented Shayleigh Koh.
Eventually, the finale was sad as Ian realizes that his demise can only be resolved by his own departure from his family and he is no longer in the land of the living. In a way it reminds us that as Singaporeans when we yearn to strive too much for success, we get so distracted by what we think is important that we depart from and leave the things that most matter to us in our everyday life - family, friends and loved ones.
The last scene of Dr Moore's enticement of a new rodent may serve the possibility of a sequel.
Some photographs of the Singapore Premiere on the 30th October 2017.
For other posts about Certified Dead, click here.