AUGUST 28, 2008
I was pretty bummed to hear that Tartan US would be more or less shutting down; they have been a great source of Eastern horror films such as The Victim (aka Phii Khon Pen in its native Thailand); not only are they more widely available, but the transfers and extras are above average compared to imported glorified VCDs that some folks recommend. Luckily, they have a lot of films already released, and the discs aren’t going anywhere, so it’ll probably be a while before I have trouble finding something new to watch from the other side of the world.
The Victim (recommended by HMAD reader Cam1020) is a curious entry in the never-ending series of Asian horror films revolving around vengeful spirits. To explain why will require spoilers, so if you don’t want the twist that occurs at the film’s halfway point to be spoiled, I urge you to stop reading now.
(Stop reading this review I mean. Not reading in general. That’s something you should always try to do, especially on the internet.)
The first half of the film revolves around a girl who portrays the victim in crime scene re-enactments for the police/press investigations. I can’t quite figure out the purpose of such a tradition, but apparently it’s something that is really done over there. After a few of these “jobs”, she gets a “breakthrough” role, portraying a murdered beauty queen. But as is often the case in horror movies, she gets “too close” and begins trying to solve the murder herself, and pretty much does. But then, BAM! Someone yells “Cut!” and we realize that everything we have watched so far has been a movie... about an actress working for the police.
And this is where it gets needlessly convoluted, as you realize that our heroine is a girl named May, who is playing a girl named Ting, an actress who is playing Meen (the beauty queen) in a movie. We are watching a movie about the making of a movie that is about an actress. What the fuck? I kept hearing Robert Downey yell “I’m the dude playing the dude disguised as another dude!” as my head struggled to wrap itself around just exactly who the “real” character was. Not since Bewitched has a movie become so needlessly overwrapped in realities.
The rest of the movie involves the actual murdered beauty queen killing off everyone involved with the filming of a particular scene. Why this scene pissed her off so much I’m not entirely sure. Like the crime scene re-enactments, a lot of this movie is seemingly based on the idea that the audience knows a lot about Thailand customs. Which is fine; I’m not of the opinion that every movie made has to consider its idiot American audience. But still, even Thai audiences were probably a bit confused by the ramifications of the mid-way twist (in terms of who are the actors, who are the real people, etc), so you can imagine how doubly confusing it is for me. I was baffled from the start because of the crime scene stuff, and by the time the twist came around my head damn near exploded. But the motive stuff – no idea. It’s got something to do with a dance.
That said, it’s still pretty entertaining. Some of the early scares are effectively creepy (ghosts appear to us, but not to her, so their appearances are subtle), and the cast is great, especially Pitchanart Sakakorn, who is essentially playing three roles. I also really love the score, the piece that plays over the flashback that sort of explains that we have been watching a movie so far is fantastic. Also, I love that the editing system they use in the traditional “look, I have footage of a ghost” scene is a legit program (Final Cut, in fact) instead of some made up movie shit that usually gets used.
The only extra on the disc is a 20 minute look at the real ghosts that haunted the production. At this point I was getting pretty sick of the multiple levels of reality. So real ghosts haunted the set of the movie that was about the ghosts haunting the set of a movie about an actress making movies? What? For once, I would actually prefer an EPK with all the actors talking about how much they love working together.
However, while it may be too confusing for its own good, its still preferable to the umpteenth “Ghost haunts a piece of technology” movie from the East. Good to see they are thinking outside the box.
What say you?