Kuala Lumpur has fallen. A seemingly harmlessly flu epidemic has spread across the city, and within 24 hours, it has turn the city’s residents into mindless flesh-eating zombies.
The question now is, how would you – as a Malaysian – react to a zombie outbreak in your own city?
That is the question that KL24: Zombies seeks to answer. Produced by filmmaker James Lee’s Doghouse73 Pictures, it is a feature-length omnibus of three stories directed by Lee, Gavin Yap and Shamine Othman, and follows the first 24 hours of the zombie outbreak from three different points of view.
The topic is not the only thing that’s unique about this film though. It is also the first Malaysian feature-length film to be released solely online, via YouTube.
According to Lee, the idea behind KL24 is to tell Malaysian stories through the zombie genre.
“It’s a genre that has been gaining mainstream popularity over the years, but is rarely made in the local industry. The genre itself used to be a commentary on society, so we thought it’ll be a good genre to deal with certain subject matters that is close to the filmmakers’ hearts,” he said in an e-mail interview, adding that KL24 is meant to emulate the classic low budget zombie movies that were popularised by the likes of George Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead.
Lee’s segment, titled Over Time, is about three office workers who are forced to work overtime during the first day of the outbreak. On top of that, their boss has also turned into a zombie.
Yap’s Meet The Changs is about a man named Steven, who brings his girlfriend Farah, a lawyer fighting for women’s rights, to meet his estranged family for dinner, only for all hell to break loose when his younger step-brother turns into a zombie.
Last but no least, Shamaine’s Polyzombies is about Datuk Karim, who recently married his fourth young wife Melati, and is caught in a dilemma when she becomes infected. His other three wives want him to kill Melati, and when he refuses, Salwa, the first wife, orders her son Imri to execute the deed instead.
According to Lee, each of the directors wrote their own stories and then developed a few characters that are interlinked between the stories.
The opportunity to explore stories that are usually shunned in the industry was another reason they opted for an online release rather than the more conventional cinema screenings, explained Lee.
“Both Gavin and Shamaine have a very strong interest in family dynamics and marriages, so the movie itself kind of gave them the chance to explore and tell the stories they are interested in within the genre itself,” Lee offered.
“We do have an extra range of creative freedom when we release it online. The directors can explore subjects and execution techniques that are not deemed mainstream.
“It allows the filmmakers to retain their vision and voices without worrying about market trends or investors, which can sometimes be a hindrance to making a good movie,” he said.
Lee reckoned the unique platform and strong stories were what attracted established actors from the film and theatre industry as well as the YouTube community, which include Sharifah Amani, Azman Hassan, Fatimah Abu Bakar, Joseph Germani, Pete Teo and Benji Lim, among others.
An added attraction, of course, was the chance to kill some zombies, or actually BE one. “The zombie genre is rarely made in Malaysia, so it was really a chance to be in one and have fun.
“During our pre-production, we received a lot of messages from friends and strangers offering to be a zombie in the horde!” Lee said.
In the four years since Doghouse73 moved online to create and produce short films, the production house has almost exclusively focused on short films. The decision to make a feature length omnibus this time around was thanks to financial support they got from a sponsor.
“Times like these, it’s hard to get local audiences to pay for a local content. We want the movie to be watched by as many people as possible, to at least show them that local indie films can be more interesting than mainstream cinema,” said Lee.
While making money was not a top priority with thisproject, Lee hopes to explore the possibility of monetising future productions. “We’ll be producing two more indie features in 2017, and will explore monetisation mainly on internet video streaming platforms, especially in China.
“If we get a lot of positive feedback for KL24, we may consider a prequel or a sequel, and maybe theatrical releases for the new ones.”
You can watch exclusive footage from KL24: Zombies, trailers and interviews on the on Doghouse73’s official YouTube channel.