Tan Kaiyi in conversation with Tunku Halim: The Dark Lord of Malaysian Horror

In Tunku Halim’s illustrious career in horror writing, his beginning could be the strangest story of all in the history of the genre.

His first ever published work was Everything the condominium developer should have told you, but didn’t, containing his musings on buying condominiums during the Klang Valley real estate boom in the ‘90s. He followed that up with a sequel, Condominiums: Purchase Investment & Habitat, before publishing his first ever horror novel, Dark Demon Rising, in 1997. The hero of the story is Shazral, a city lawyer, who returns to his home kampong to attend his father’s funeral. It is there that he realises that he has been given a supernatural inheritance, in the form of a Hantu Penanggal, a Malay nocturnal vampiric entity.

Ooi Kok Hin in The Malaysian Insider

Among the Malays, one would have thought that they are the ones who will most appreciate their literary tradition. But beneath the facade of ethnic pride and supremacist rhetoric, the Malays have mostly forgotten the history of their literature, too.

Ismail Hussein, writing in 1966, has this to say: The present interest of the Malay people towards their own traditional literature has been very mixed. On the one side there is the group of ardent nationalists who are eagerly grabbing anything that come in their way and trying to reconstruct it into a glorious cultural past at the expense of precision and historical accuracy. A member of this group will tell us of the rich literary heritage of the Malay people, but the probability is that he himself has not read four texts of this heritage and can hardly name twenty titles of that rich literature. On the other side, there is the group of young forward-looking people who are only interested in the present and the future, who are anxiously trying to forget the past, because the past has brought them nothing but embarrassment.” (Excerpt from  Ismail Hussein’s “The Study of Traditional Malay Literature”).