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[DVD Review] 'P' Sincere But Ponderous
Another Brit-Helmed Thai horror is again not scary enough
Kyu Hyun Kim (qhyunkim)     Print Article 
Published 2009-12-14 11:58 (KST)   
Kyu Hyun Kim rates 'P' two of 5 stars.  <Editor's Note>
©2009 Palisades Tartan


Like another recent Thai horror film, 쏥host of Mae Nak, 쏱 (2005) is written and directed by a 쐄arang, a foreigner, this time Paul Spurrier, perhaps better known as a TV actor in his home turf and has previously directed the controversial teen-drug urban drama "Underground (1998)." Whilst 쏥host of Mae Nak is an enthusiastic grab-bag of horror flick cliches, 쏱 is a strangely sincere social commentary disguised as an elemental ghost story.

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It concerns a teenage girl Dau (Suangporn Jaturaphut) growing up in a remote village under the supervision of her spooky grandmother (Pisamai Pakdeevijit). In order to protect the parentless girl, the granny teaches her secret skills of sorcery (this has something to do with them being Khmers in origin), along with a set of taboos that should not be broken when practicing magic. Unfortunately, the granny셲 poor health compels Dau to seek a job in Bangkok, which turns out to be a dancer at a seedy club exclusively catering to foreigners. Dau befriends her roommate Pookie (Opal) but becomes an object of scorn and harassment by other dancers. Angry and frustrated, Dau, against her better judgment, resorts to her knowledge of magic to not only attract 쐄arang customers but to maim and destroy her competitors. Soon an internal organ-munching demon takes possession of her physical form every night she falls asleep.

The title 쏱 is a phonetic rendition of the Thai word meaning 쐓pirit (not 쐅host in the sense that it represents a once-alive personality), and the film treats us to a primer on certain Thai folk beliefs as well as a generic story of a country girl who loses her innocence, sexual or otherwise, in the meat market of a big city before any supernatural shenanigan takes place. Director Spurrier seems to be condemning the Euro-American patronage of Bangkok셲 sleazy service industry, but his message is belied by the movie셲 heavy-breathing fixation on the women, including leery, music-video-ish presentation of the lead actress Jaturaphut pole dancing.

©2009 Palisades Tartan


Even if we accept the sincerity of his intentions, it does not change the fact that the movie is simply not very exciting. While competently lensed by Rich Moore, with the frequent use of wide-angle shots and time-lapse photography, 쏱 suffers from some critical missteps in other departments, e.g. painfully wimpy music and lackluster design of the supernatural sequences. The CGI effects invoked to illustrate the Dau-demon 쐃ating victims from inside out only make sense as such because she explains what she intends to do to a victim not because we can make much sense of the jumbled graphic.

True, Jaturaphut is an impressive young actress with a fresh face. While she makes a sympathetic protagonist, casting her, who was seventeen at the time, apparently compelled Spurrier to tone down nudity and violence. So, even though the body count itself is not low, everything taking place in 쏱 is strictly PG-13 stuff. At least it prevents the film from ending up unwatchably trashy.

DVD Presentation:

Palisade Tartan. NTSC. Dual Layer. Region 1. Audio: Thai (Dolby Digital 2.0, Dolby Digital 5.1, Filmmaker셲 Commentary Track). 1 hour 49 minutes. Subtitles: English. Retail Price $19.99. Street Date: October 20, 2009.

Tartan USA had folded its tent in 2008, but now they are back under Palisades Films. The brand new releases even retain the 쏛sia Extreme banner. The 2.35:1 widescreen anamorphic transfer is a bit soft and improper interlacing becomes very noticeable, especially during the early outdoor sequences. On the other hand, color is natural and details are much improved over the old (pre-쏺ictim, to be precise) Tartan transfers of Thai films. The English subtitles appear economical and smooth, possibly due to the fact that the screenplay was written by an English speaker. Little worthy of note in the audio department: at least dialogues are clear.

©2009 Palisades Tartan


The best supplement is director셲 busy but heartfelt audio commentary. Mostly covering technical aspects of filmmaking, Spurrier eventually delves into difficulties of mounting a low-budget production as well as the detours and compromises he had to make to get the project going (including the aforementioned toning down of the movie to appease Jatruaphut and her mother). Near the end he unexpectedly confesses that he made 쏱 more or less to personally address the tragedy of drug addiction suffered by a Bangkok dancer he used to be friends with.

To be frank, I would rather have watched his gritty take on the 쐙abba drug addiction rather than this laborious horror effort, but perhaps there were extenuating circumstances that made taking on such a subject unattractive or untenable (Censorship?). There is also a very brief (1 minute and 45 seconds) making-of fragment and a bizarre video segment titled 쏶oi Cowboy Go-Go Bar, in which an unidentified American guy in a loud Hawaiian shirt walks around the brightly-lit, bustling 쐃ntertainment district of Bangkok for about 5 minutes, rambling about how 쐄emi-Nazis and second-rate Euro-American journalists just don셳 get the real meaning of the Thai go-go clubs, and some such claptrap. I literally have no idea what is he going on about, or why this nonsense is included in this DVD package. The qualities of these videos are completely unwatchable in any case.
©2009 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Kyu Hyun Kim

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