Director Osman Ali could only muster a laugh when he was asked about how much blood was used in horror film Jwanita. The prolific director’s latest film stars Maya Karin, as murderous enchantress with a taste for human flesh and blood. When she’s not consuming any, she showers in blood while singing a hypnotic tune under the moonlight.

“We used a lot! They came in containers and we imported from a neighbouring country. Initially, we thought about just making fake blood from the usual food colouring. Then, we realised that it would be so much more effective for our actors and for the movie if we get better quality fake blood,” said Osman during an interview in Kuala Lumpur.

There is a lot of bad blood in Jwanita, both literally and figuratively.

Maya who plays the titular character has a tragic backstory. She and her sister Julaika (Cristina Suzanne) became young orphans after their parents died in a car accident.

Jwanita was then separated from her sister. Her attempt to reunite with Julaika proved to be futile as she was kidnapped by a dukun (shaman) played by Datin Umie Aida.

Jwanita was made to clean up bloody human remains and eventually became a part of the dukun’s dark ritualistic practice.

Producer Julian Jayaseela explained that Jwanita’s murderous rage came from her traumatic past: “She’s a girl who has been physically, emotionally and sexually exploited by the people around her.”

When an adult Jwanita is finally reunited with her sister, there is no love between the two. Instead, she is jealous of Julaika leading a happy life with her psychiatrist husband Farhan (Bront Palarae) and their two children.

Jwanita wants the same for herself because she has fallen in love with Farhan.

Some speculated that Osman, who also wrote the script and screenplay for Jwanita, was inspired by crimes of the infamous Mona Fandey. The pop singer-turned-witch doctor was executed in 2001 for the gruesome murder of politician Mazlan Idris.

Jwanita features scenes of horrific ritual murder and also depicts body parts in pieces.

Osman noted the similarities but flatly denied that the movie has any relations with Mona’s story.

“I was inspired by some of the stories I’ve read in the news. These were stories about bodies mysteriously disappearing, from cemeteries to brutal murder cases. I’ve always been intrigued by stories like that and I often wonder about what really happened.”

He did say that the dukun role was specially written with Umie in mind. The actress starred in Dain Said’s Dukun (2007), a banned local horror film loosely based on the life and times of Mona.

Umie said her role in Jwanita gave her some sort of relief.

“I did use my role in Dukun as an inspiration for this film. But I tried not to make the roles look similar. Instead, my role in Jwanita has her own story. Through this film, I felt that I was able to show the audience what they were missing in Dukun,” Umie shared.

A scene from Jwanita.

A scene from Jwanita.

Jwanita was shot on location at a beach house in Kijal, Terengganu. Osman said the isolated location helped to elevate the film’s eerie setting.

Maya who was not present at the interview was praised by the cast and Osman for her dedication to the role. Bront who has acted with Maya in romantic films such as Lagenda Budak Setan 3: Kasyah, Sejoli and Ombak Rindu said he saw a different side to the actress on the set of Jwanita.

“In previous films, I’ve always played that person pining for Maya’s affection. So, it’s kinda fun to be the one being pursued instead (laughs). Even though we’re long-time friends, we did not interact much on set. Maya was in her zone.”

Over the years, Osman’s name has been synonymous with romantic offerings like Pilot Cafe and megahit Ombak Rindu so much so that audiences might have forgotten that the director’s first feature was actually a horror flick titled Puaka Tebing Biru in 2007.

“Yeah, I’ve been waiting for a long time to make Jwanita. It’s nice to turn to the dark side again,” Osman said with a laugh.

Jwanita opens in cinemas nationwide on Sept 24.