March 02, 2006

DORM (2006) A new ghost story from Thailand

DORM (Thailand, 2006)
A movie review all the way from Bangkok

This was released in February in Thailand and also played at the Bangkok Film Festival. It's been a box office hit there and I'm sure it will travel well internationally, if marketed carefully.

Because of the poster and the initial premise, I was prepared for a full-on horror film, but Dorm is a well-rounded ghost story that's almost family fare in Thailand. However, it contains elements that may not be considered suitable for younger viewers everywhere.

I've been disappointed by several horror films from Thailand in recent years, the amateurish acting in Snaker, 999-9999 and Garuda had made me very wary of films that were made there. Then along came Shutter, a slick, creepy horror film loaded with shock moments - finally a Thai movie that I could whole-heartedly recommend. But I needed proof that Shutter wan't a one-off fluke.

I was recently on holiday in Thailand and wanted to go to a cinema in Bangkok. I was pleasantly surprised to find a film that I wanted to see had just opened, and that half of the performances had english subtitles! Thailand (and Thai DVD for that matter) is quite easy for those who speak English. I'd say that about half of the DVD releases there have english subtitles on them. Travelling around Thailand, many signs and menus were in English, and many people spoke a little English, enough to accommodate tourists needing taxis, food, shopping etc.

In the cinema, before the film started, I was caught out by the audience all suddenly standing up for the National Anthem and a montage of photographs of their beloved King playing on the big screen. We don't do that in England! But back to Dorm...

The film opens with a young boy being sent far away from home, to a boarding school in the country. He's very angry at his father, and his life is made more miserable because he's joining the school halfway through a term. All the boys sleep in one huge dormitory. A gang of four misfits decide to pick on the new kid by telling him ghost stories on his first night, giving him as much to worry about his new surroundings as possible. They tell him that the school, the dorm, the teacher that's looking after him, even the very bed he's sleeping in all have a strange history. The boy, Chatree (played by Charlie Trairat), gets very scared and wets the bed. But during the weeks that follow, he discovers that some of the ghost stories might actually be true, and even linked together...

Dorm is half family drama, half supernatural drama, but despite the young lead, the shocks and scares may be too effective for an audience as young as the central character - but maybe I'm being over-protective. I'll also warn you that there's a lot of urinating in the film! Close ups of kids wetting themselves, boys peeing in bushes, lots of scenes in toilets - you don't get this in Harry Potter. In terms of tone, the best comparison I can think of is the marvellous Stand By Me.

Dorm is beautifully shot, with fantastic performances, and it's a film that works on all levels. It's scary, but also funny, dramatic, sad... just all-round entertaining. I wish it every success all over the world!

Now I've got to trawl through Thailand's other recent horror films to make sure I'm not missing any other gems...

1 comment:

  1. This is a great ghost story. It is difficult to find good ghost stories - they seem to devolve into horror/slashers. I'd put this on my short-list of fun ghost stories, along with "The Changling," (1980) directed by Peter Medak starring George C. Scott, and "Below" (2002) directed by David Twohy. Awesome. I'll look for more by this director. And check out the other film recommended in this review.