Ever noticed how I often seen to do a bunch of films from a particular region in a cluster? It’s far from deliberate (believe me, other than my binge watching of TV shows the last few months, my film watching habits are usually only related by randomness), but clearly there is something Thai in the air. Not only am I about to write about another Thai ghost story, but the next review will be the same. And over at Easternkicks it’s an indie Thai fest too! Anyhow, today I’m going to look at a film that strangely escaped my attention back in 2006, even though it had a UK DVD release. And if you’ll excuse me a football metaphor in these days of FIFA scandals (oh ok Soccer for you American readers) this one is really a game of two halves.
So in “The Victim” we meet struggling actress Ting (Pitchanart Sakakorn) who manages to get herself an interesting side job. She is used to play the role of the female victims in those crime reconstructions so beloved of the Asian justice system (and I’ll probably talk a little more about this once we have the synopsis out of the way). She isn’t content with just turning up though, she really investigates the roles she is being asked to play, and she actually becomes a minor celebrity. We even see the ghosts of those she has played seemingly give her unseen respect. Things step up a notch when she is eventually asked to play the part of a murdered beauty queen called Meen (Apasiri Nitibhon), whose spirit seems to be actively helping Ting not only get the role, but also stop the wrong person being convicted of the crime. Ting follows the leads, and ends up in a very difficult predicament when all of a sudden….
The director calls “Cut!“
…Because it turns out for the first half of this movie we have been watching a film within a film. Ting is a character played by May (still Pitchanart Sakakorn), and they are making a film about the death of Meen. However, even in this new reality, things are not quite right, and the spirit of our dead beauty seems to not only have it in for the makers of the film, but is occasionally possessing May via an antique headdress. May starts to uncover new truths about what is going on, but can that even save her from her haunter’s endgame?
Phew. That was a difficult one to get down in a few words. Best way to think about this is as two short films melded into one, linked by Sakakorn’s presence. And as an actress playing an actress playing an actress she does pretty well. Ting and May are both quite different characters, the former being quite delightfully perky, with the latter seemingly less emotive and way more confused as to the events going on.
The first half of the film is the most successful for me. It just seemed to use a fairly unique device to wrap the story around. You’ve probably seen these Police reconstructions in films before (and maybe even on the western new occasionally) – they get the accused to re-enact their crimes. It isn’t like shows such as “Crimewatch” we have in the UK, where reconstructions are used to get new witnesses, it is very much at the end of the justice cycle. In Thailand it is pretty much an admission of guilt on the perpetrators part, good PR for the Police force, and something for the media to gobble up. A criminal can get a reduction in his sentence by playing along with it. I believe they do this in other countries too, I think in Japan, and certainly in Korea (it plays a large part in “Sympathy for Lady Vengeance” for example), although there it is a little different, as it is more part of the punishment, allowing normal people to vent and rage. Anyway, I thought it was fascinating to use it as something to hang a ghost story on. It rattles along at a fair old pace, has a few good jumps. Oh, and by using actual famous crime scenes as locations add a little more to the general sense of macabre.
But once we get that literal “cut”, things don’t quite work for me. The film is stopped in it’s tracks, and takes an age to get going again. The second half of the film is a totally different beast. It is a lot more talky, and frankly the film isn’t terribly successful at unveiling the story. We spend what feels like hours looking at mysterious images on the film stock – something “Shutter” had already done a couple years previously to much better effect. It fails to really get to the bottom of the possession side of things, and as for the final unveiling? Well I am pretty sure I do know what was happening, but it is fairly unclear. I know exposition is a dangerous tool, but sometimes you do need it. And then we have yet another extra ending that whilst giving us a final (and pretty good) jump scare, seemed extraneous after the mid-film shift.
I am going with Recommended for this. The first half might not be original in execution, but gets extra marks for dressing the film in a new and original setting. It’s just a shame that the second half of the film doesn’t have quite the same drive and fun.