The highly anticipated adaptation of ‘The Ghost Bride’, the Malaysian-Taiwanese book by The New York Times bestseller Yangsze Choo, is now available on Netflix and the eight-part series takes viewers on a weird and wonderful journey into the supernatural world.
At the heart of the story is Pan Li Lan, a young woman (played by Huang Peijia) who receives a marriage proposal from a rich dowager to marry her son.
While the idea of marriage initially excites Li Lan’s father, it is soon revealed that Li Lan is to actually marry the dowager’s dead son instead, turning her into the ghost bride of the title. Horrified, she rejects the proposal but it turns out that the ghoulish groom-to-be – Lim Tian Ching (played by Kuang Tian) is not easily put off and starts popping up in Li Lan’s dreams with alarming regularity.
The plot then takes a clever twist with Li Lan keen to solve the murder mystery surrounding the dead son to help save her father. The tension builds during the first half of the series over why Tian Ching is quite so insistent on tying the knot with his potential bride-to-be in the afterlife. Although the big reveal in the second half – courtesy of a sentimental one-liner from Tian Ching – could have used a bit more creativity from the writers.
One of the main themes running through the show is the fact that Li Lan, like many, refuses to give up her independence – although to be fair to her, there is rather more at stake! While certain family dilemmas push her to make some decisions against her will, she ends up embracing her good side and fighting on to solve the murder mystery.
Set in 19th-century Malacca, the show also offers a peek into a more vibrant Malaysia back in the day. Be it the setting or the costumes, audiences are immersed in the glamour and rich colour of the period.
As a limited series, the show successfully establishes its aim without dragging on. While ‘The Ghost Bride’ sometimes struggles to maintain a balance between seriousness and over-the-top comedy, the show makes up for it with its interesting take on Southeast Asia’s supernatural mythology. Supporting actors include Ludi Lin, Janet Hsieh, Susan Leong and Jordan Voon.