First Look: The Uniquely Singaporean Monster Movie 'Circle Line'

Courtesy of Taipan Films & mm2 Entertainment
'Circle Line'

Shot at Iskandar Malaysia Studios, the creature feature, a first for the country, is the debut film from local director J.D. Chua.

Singapore's Asia Film & TV Market (ATF) was given a brief glimpse of the eagerly anticipated and locally produced monster movie Circle Line. 

Circle Line, named after the underground subway line on Singapore's metro system, is the debut feature from local director J.D. Chua, and stars Singaporean talents Jesseca Liu and Nathaniel Ng. The story pits a group of trapped train travelers against a giant beast lurking deep within Singapore’s underground metro system.

The film will be the first monster movie ever produced in Singapore, and Chua and Circle Line's producers screened a short behind-the-scenes feature at ATF and spoke about how they hope the film will help broaden the horizons of filmmakers across Southeast Asia. Put together by Singapore’s Taipan Films and mm2 Entertainment, and shot mostly at Iskandar Malaysia Studios, Circle Line is set for a May 2020 rollout and has been four years in the planning.

“We hope this is just the first for the genre from Singapore, and that more filmmakers from across the region can think bigger in terms of such productions,” said Chua, who interned under Michael Mann at the America action master’s Forward Pass Inc. and on the 2015 release Blackhat before producing a series of shorts and web series, including Bad Throttle, which played in the 2015 Bucheon Choice Competition.

He added: “We don’t get much a of chance to work with visual effects in Southeast Asia, so this is one area we all hope will continue to develop.”

Chua says the inspiration comes from South Korea, with the thinking that his film is a cross between Yeon Sang-ho’s smash hit zombie flick Train to Busan (2016) and Bong Joon-ho’s creature feature classic The Host (2006).

“We storyboarded for 15 months, which is incredibly long for a Singaporean film, and we used visual effects and CGI that Singaporean films have never really used before,” said Chua.

Chua said that while the budget was limited — the $2.2 million (S$3 million) might pay for one of Godzilla’s pedicures — ambitions were large.

“We are hoping this is just the start for the genre,” said Chua. “More international partners are coming in to the region, so our visual effects will improve as we continue to learn.”

Circle Line will be the first full-length feature to come out of Malaysia’s troubled $150 million Iskandar Malaysia Studios, which ended a rocky five-year relationship with British studio facilities giant Pinewood back in July.

Malaysia’s National Film Development Corporation (Finas) chairman Hans Isaac revealed the studio was now booked up until next July, and said he hoped the attention Circle Line would generate would lure more Southeast Asian productions to the complex’s 100,000 square feet of studio space.

“There are many negotiations going on here this week,” said Isaac. “We are working hard on co-productions with Singapore and elsewhere.”

Singapore’s film industry leaders have also been pushing the potential of such co-productions hard across ATF this week, with the announcement of a $14.7 million (S$20 million) fund to attract potential international production partners.