August 15, 2006

VENGEANCE (2006) Thai cursed jungle horror

VENGEANCE (2006, Thailand)
Thai All-region PAL DVD (from Premium Digital Entertainment)

After a confusing first few minutes, Vengeance settles down to become a half-decent thriller as a team of Thai policemen sets off into the jungle in pursuit of a gang of escaped convicts. The locations reminded me of the lush rainforest atmosphere of Lost World: Jurassic Park 2, but with temples. Both sides start to take casualties in the crossfire and then the forest starts to claim victims of its own.

The first hostile creatures they encounter are a nasty swarm of 'tiger wasps' (according to the subtitles), who deliver more interesting action than ever appeared in disastrous seventies movie The Swarm.

The next creatures are rather more mystical and live in the 'ladyfruit' tree… Some marvellous little crocodile/gekko creatures are next - the CGI effects are beautifully composited into the action.

As the two sides bump into a group of forest-dwellers, we also meet a giant snake, that's when the CGI fails to convince, the modelling and animation is far from convincing and kicks off the effects-heavy part of the film which the budget can’t really endure.

If the producers had stuck with the subtler effects of the mid-section of the film and kept up with the three-handed game of police/convicts/forest people, it could have played as a tight thriller.

Unfortunately, the FX get over-ambitious and so does the plot – there's lots of action, little reason, and it ends with a rushed, botched finale.

So please don't think you're getting a giant snake movie, (which the posters might lead you to believe) you’ll be disappointed. The snake actually lets it down as the dodgiest effect in the film. The benchmark for snake FX has been set by the Anaconda sequels – we’re talking straight-to-video – if you can’t match the quality of those, stay out of the jungle!

I'd lazily call Vengeance a cop thriller, jungle adventure, fantasy horror.

The acting is convincing, not something you can say about many horror films from Thialand. There's a sexy cast, plenty of action, plot twists, a little gore, and some glimpses of creatures you haven’t seen before… But I just wanted it to make more sense.

If you want a fuller plot synopsis (with spoilers) hike on over to
Wise Kwai’s marvellous Thai movie site, part of the Rotten Tomatoes gang.

My enjoyment of the film was slightly hampered by this Thai DVD release (pictured), which is annoyingly censored – adults smoking, knives held to the throat and guns pointing at people’s heads were all blurred out (see below). I also thought I spotted some jumpy edits dring some of the fights – I suspect there’s a stronger cut somewhere out there.

Worse still, the framing of the film felt like the 16:9 image had been cropped down from 2.35, leaving characters leaning out of the sides of the frame or even speaking off screen.

The main plus point is that there are decent english subtitles. The other plus is that official Thai DVD releases are exceedingly cheap. For instance
eThaiCD supply this title, if you’re interested.

Vengeance has an English side to its website. Check it out for stuff like the wallpapers and a better look at the creatures...

Mark H

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