Back to Thailand, and a surprisingly good little horror movie. I have been struggling a bit with horror movies recently, the obsession with torture porn and excess has really turned me off the genre, and maybe the Asian ghost stories have turned a little stale. This one however, attempts something a little different, by putting some proper drama on screen as well as some creepy visuals, with some genuine scares. It was allegedly inspired by some true life events in a now-abandoned gated community, but that is not really too important, other than some excuse to google.
Thi has finally achieved what he wanted. A new job in Chang Mai has enabled him to move his wife Pan, his young son Nat and his angry young teen daughter Nan into their own house for the first time. A dream home if you like, in a safe gated community. Things are far from perfect – his daughter pretty much hates him for taking her away from Bangkok and the Grandmother who dotes on her. There is the suspicion that his wife may well have had an affair with her old Boss. The job itself seems a bit suspect, obviously a pyramid scheme that simply cannot survive or give him the money he needs to maintain this lifestyle.
Things quickly go a little wrong, when a Burmese maid that he had approached to help with the housework is discovered dead in a refrigerator, in a nearby house. But hang on, she has been in there for days… didn’t Thi see her only yesterday? And what about that strange family next door? The Husband seems abusive, the wife a little odd, and their Son seems to constantly attempting to play strange games with Nat.
It really is the most un-Asian film I have seen for a while. Other than a little bit of Buddhism, this really could take place anywhere in the developed world. These are people who are trying to live if you like an American dream, owning their own house, living a perfect family life. Yet as always, the dream is only attainable at a cost. Angsty teenagers, troubled relationships, the desire to provide for your family, all universal stories.
In terms of scares, this one is top notch. It isn’t gory or graphic, it relies on half hidden glimpses, and music cues. I have seen a lot of horror films, it takes a lot to scare me, but I was wishing I had not turned the lights out. It will not be anything the average horror fan has not seen before, but it is executed beautifully.
What raises it up is the little bits around the edges. The mother-in-law who hates Thi is only heard as a voice on the phone (until a nice little coda at the end), chipping away at her daughters relationship. The moment when Thi is caught working in a convenience store by his estranged Daughter. They give the film a depth that many horror films ignore in the pursuit of ever increasing thrills.
It is also interesting in that it really does not attempt to explain much. There is a twist of sorts, but it isn’t the driver for the story. There is no deep dark secret here – the horror merely matches the crumbling of this perfect life. It could have been an utter mess, but for me it totally worked.
It will not appeal to the hardened horror audience though – I think the other story will take away from it. And there was one scene which actually felt a little odd, when Thi murders an annoying cat. Maybe it is the English (nation of animal lovers and all that) in me, but that just seemed really strange, cruel and had little to do with what was going on.
For me, it was a bit of a random punt on a film that I expected little off. Yet I found something that really surprised me, and whilst it isn’t high art, this one is highly recommended.