March 08, 2006

ART OF THE DEVIL (2004) Thailand horror movie DVD

ART OF THE DEVIL (2004, Thailand, titled "Khon len khong")
Thailand PAL DVD

Another horror film from Thailand not living up to its poster art. But gorehounds may be amused.

Again, spectacular poster artwork interested me in this one, and Art of the Devil is getting a certain reputation for its level of gore. Like Scared, the film doesn't live up to the posters promise of 'gothic nightmare', and the scenes depicted in the artwork (like the poster below) don't quite appear in the film. But it certainly is bloody...

The story concerns a young woman used and abused by her rich boyfriend - he pays her off but refuses to leave his family for her. After she is gang-raped by his friends, she takes her revenge on him and his family, by using a Thai black magic ritual called 'the art of the devil'. It looks a lot like voodoo, involving straw mannikins and corpses... The family members start dying by vomiting up sharp objects that spontaneously appear inside them...

The film is efficiently made, but lacks the edge needed to generate suspense or any real shocks. The ingredients are all there - a story with this many murders and ghosts of the undead should have been far more creepy. It certainly manages to be repulsive in several sequences, and there is a unique scene with the heroine flailing about in a roomful of eels. A lot of eels. In fact in the making-of programme, we see some behind-the-scenes shots and, pity the actress, there's no CGI (like in the similar scene in The Craft), just bucketloads of large eels. After the filming, she's clearly not happy, in fact, very upset. But the result is very successful.

So, it's memorable, in places - the cast, locations, budget, FX are all amply sufficient, but the film doesn't quite work for me. I applaud any country's film industry that's so committed to a flourishing output of horror films, I'm just having trouble finding any of the same high calibre as Shutter.

The PAL Thai DVD (pictured top left) has no english subtitles on it, but includes the trailer and a half-hour Thai programme (Scoop) which interviews the director and leading actresses and shows some good behind the scenes footage.

There are english subtitles on the Region 1 NTSC DVD currently out in the USA.

A sequel, Art of the Devil 2 has just appeared at the Bangkok International Film Festival. It's been heralded with more fantastic promotional posters - already they're beckoning me to investigate if the sequel surpasses the original...


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