Aloysius Pang’s final film offers closure for both host-actor Dasmond Koh and the public
Before the late local actor Aloysius Pang embarked on his fateful reservist training in New Zealand in 2019, he was in Thailand, filming his first set of scenes for a horror movie.
He had expected to return to Thailand after his training to continue production.
But tragedy struck. Pang died carrying out repair works during the training at the age of 28 and never completed the movie.
Now, after three years of deliberation, rewrites and a pandemic that stalled film production and travel, his final performance is finally ready for audiences on the big screen.
Pang’s posthumous work The Antique Shop opens in cinemas here on Thursday. The film was released in Thailand in June.
The film’s executive producer, local host-actor Dasmond Koh, who is also the founder of NoonTalk Media – the agency that managed Pang – and the late star’s mentor, says: “I had this dilemma about whether we should carry on with the project, but I spoke with his parents and his brothers, and they felt that since acting is something he loved to do, they would like to share it with the public.”
Koh, 50, recalls: “There were times I struggled to carry on, but it’s his last work. Yes, it’s short – he has only about 15 minutes of screen time, which is all the footage we have of him – but he put in a lot of effort. After he filmed in Thailand, we had a Christmas party at my house (in 2018) and he shared with me his experience of working with a Thai director and team. He was eager to do well in the movie and I thought he did well too.
“I know there are keyboard warriors out there who might say I’m milking him for publicity, but honestly, if I wanted to milk him, this film would have been released two or three years ago.”
The Antique Shop is not Pang’s only posthumous work. His last drama, the Toggle romance-mystery From Beijing To Moscow, premiered in June 2019 after his death, but The Antique Shop is his final work.
It is a bittersweet moment. Koh says: “The emotions really struck me when I was looking at the final few rounds of edits in Thailand. He was someone who loved acting with so much passion. From time to time, when I think about him, I get sad, but he is a Singaporean son and the joy of being able to bring his final film back here has overwhelmed some of that sorrow.
“Aside from our own feelings, things need closure. And to the public, this is closure – it’s what he can do (in terms of acting) and what he has done.”
Releasing The Antique Shop was no easy feat. Pang’s untimely death halted production, which had begun in late 2018, and the pandemic held up the film too as Thailand barred foreign visitors.
The movie, which was originally written as one story, also had to be reworked into a collection of three supernatural tales, and more NoonTalk actors like Xu Bin, 33, and Damien Teo, 21, were added to the cast to help realise the new iteration.
More stars – including South Korean boy band Wanna One’s former member Bae Jin-young and Thai actors like Mean Phiravich Attachitsataporn – also joined the Singapore-Thai co-production.
For Xu and Teo, The Antique Shop is their first stab at the horror genre.
Xu says: “I don’t watch horror movies. And Thailand is known for its horror films, so I was quite worried.”
And the filming location – the pair both filmed their scenes in a real antique store in Bangkok – added to the ghostly atmosphere. Teo, a former child star, says: “It’s a very big antique store with many levels, so it’s quite eerie.”
But filming the movie was important to the duo, who were Pang’s friends and colleagues.
Teo – who, like Pang, starred in Channel 8 medical drama You Can Be An Angel Too (2015) and Channel 8 school sitcom My First School (2016) – says: “It’s an honour to be in the same production as him again, even if we don’t have scenes together.”
Xu adds: “We’re very happy to be in the same movie as him. I’ve worked with Aloysius many times and I’m glad that I can be part of this final journey for a brother.”
In the film, Xu plays Andy, a Singaporean businessman who comes across an antique store where Teo is an assistant. As Andy inspects three items collected in the store, he is told of the supernatural tales behind them.
Pang appears in the second story, titled Half Second, as a Singaporean man who meets with a traffic accident in Thailand and later encounters a mysterious spirit who traps him in the foreign country. The tale feels uncanny, given how Pang died overseas in New Zealand.
Koh says: “I don’t know how to describe it and it does seem coincidental, but I don’t want to read too much into it.”
He adds: “I don’t want people to think that I’m playing these elements up because I want a big box office (result). The movie doesn’t have to perform well. It’s enough if people who love and cherish him go and see it in cinemas. I don’t need the big numbers.”
The Antique Shop opens in Singapore theatres on Thursday.