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Horror-thriller takes a stab at depicting mental illness

Filmmaker Huy Yaleng – who plays the protagonist in his new film, Vikaljarek – on set in a market. Photo supplied
Filmmaker Huy Yaleng – who plays the protagonist in his new film, Vikaljarek – on set in a market. Photo supplied

Horror-thriller takes a stab at depicting mental illness

Filmmaker Huy Yaleng, 36, has just begun post-production on a new thriller-horror film called Vikaljarek, which means “psychosis”.

Yaleng, who also wrote and acted in the film, has previously made ghost and comedy flicks with titles like Ghost Bought a House, Ghost is on the Banana Tree and Mao Svet: Stingy Person. But he said this was his first attempt at a horror-thriller with elements based on reality.

For the film’s concept, he drew on his experiences living in a refugee camp in the early 1990s. Near where he stayed lived a traumatised family who suffered flashbacks triggered by darkness or the sight of blood. One of the members of the family would start sprinting wildly until he could be woken from his psychotic episode.

In the film, Yaleng plays Sopheap, who suffers similar symptoms after his family was killed when he was a child. He has a friend, Vichet (played by filmmaker Vandy Piseth), and works on a Phnom Penh building site but is bullied by his co-workers and people he encounters. And then one day. the bullies start dying.

Vikaljarek was filmed in various locations around Phnom Penh – at Central Market, on Monivong Boulevard and at the Post Office.

In one scene – in which Sopheap suffers a psychotic episode and starts running blindly through a market – Yaleng fell and almost badly injured himself.

“After acting in this film, I now understand why they use stunt actors in Hollywood,” he said with a laugh.

Yaleng said the 90-minute film took about a month to film, and that he hoped it would be released in Cambodian cinemas in December.

While Vikaljarek has all the elements of a classic thriller-horror film, Yaleng said it also contained a message.

“I made Vikaljarek to show about the real life of mentally ill people who need to be properly cared for – and the possible consequences if they don’t receive that care,” he said.

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