Fuji Quek, Art Director of Halloween Horror Nights
Fuji Quek, Art Director of Halloween Horror Nights

Art director Fuji Quek takes us backstage at Halloween Horror Nights

We chat with the art director of Universal Studios Singapore Fuji Quek on his scary sets for this year's Halloween affair

Cam Khalid

Blood and gore – Halloween Horror Nights opens up the gates to hell. This year, the spotlight flickers on a Thai-themed haunted house. The Curse of Naga is the brainchild of Thai director duo Parkpoom Wongpoom and Gunn Purijitpanya (best known for films like Shutter and 4bia), as well as Universal Studios Singapore’s (USS) creative team. Designed with elaborate landscapes, impressive special effects and sinister characters, the original haunted house takes visitors from the vibrant streets of Bangkok to a dingy village under the spell of a malevolent serpentine called Naga.

While scare actors may give you the creeps with their nightmarish make-up and costumes, set design – especially one that challenges visitors’ expectations with an immersive and unsettling environment – is crucial in transporting visitors to the nether realm. USS art director Fuji Quek shares the inspiration behind his sets and how he aims to heighten the atmosphere of terror at Halloween Horror Nights.

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Finding creativity
I like to go out and see what the world has to offer – best when travelling. Even when I’m shopping, I find inspiration through window displays and products where I can explore colours, textures and trends. The way consumers react within the space sparks interest as well. People’s point of views have to be considered when designing sets.

Art and about
Checking out art installations at museums like National Gallery Singapore allows me to see innovative works by other artists and think about their creative process. The most fundamental thing is to keep wondering and keep asking.

Down the career path
I’ve always wanted to be a designer – whether it’s fashion or graphic. I’ve been a scenic designer for 20 years – and I still love it! And even as an art director at Halloween Horror Nights, I get to comment on the costumes, make-up, graphics and scenes which are – looking back now – all the things I love at different stages in my life.

Photo: Resorts World Sentosa

Creating scary sets depend largely on the team and the house or the zone. We have a group of creative producers who come up with brilliant ideas. Before starting on our drawing boards, we have a brainstorming session where we discuss the concepts and themes we want to project. We’ll then debate and decide which ones have the potential to take horror to the next level. We’ll then do intense research to be as authentic as possible.

Fear factor
I love a theme with a strong authenticity to it. For example, The Curse of Naga is based on Thai culture. Loads of research went into this – even going down to Thailand to see it after dark – as we have to be careful not to cross boundaries and disrespect the culture and religion. Singaporeans may not be familiar with the country’s rich cultural background, and entering unfamiliar grounds brings upon a certain type of fear.

The Curse of the Naga
This is one of my favourite haunted houses as it’s exciting to work with the Thai producers. The house has loads of colours, textures and cultural aspects without touching much on the religion and royal family. Majority of the props are from Thailand. When it comes to designing my sets, I ensure that they are as detailed as possible. For example, the black joss sticks and yellow candles are uncommon in Singapore so we brought them over from Thailand. Some of the props and carvings are 3D-printed according to sketches by a Thai illustrator.

Photo: Resorts World Sentosa

Actors versus effects
Scare effects like an animatronic are less scary as they are fixed and repetitive. But scare actors have the freedom to express themselves. Plus, with effective make-up and costumes, they can really shine as both a still prop and a terrifying living character.

Living for the undead
Bram Stoker’s Dracula visually enticed me with its dramatic scenes, colours and textures. I was also drawn by the gothic costumes, make-up and stylings. Despite being scared, I was first overwhelmed with the scenic and art direction that I actually stayed glued until the end. And that’s the kind of attention-grabbing element I want to incorporate in my sets.

Halloween Horror Nights is turning up the scare-o-meter at Universal Studios Singapore from September 27 to October 31.

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