April 09, 2007

GHOST GAME (2006) reality TV Thai horror

(2006, Thailand, IMDB Laa-thaa-phii)

Region 3 Thai PAL DVD (Premium Digital)
No English subtitles

Looks good but not recommended

The premise looks promising enough - 11 contestants are locked inside a the site of a wartime prison in Cambodia, where many prisoners were tortured and killed. If they stay in this supposedly haunted site long enough, they stand to win a lot of money. How scared are they willing to get, before they give up? If it really is haunted, are the ghosts dangerous? Whatever happens, everything is live on TV...

But this location is based on an actual prison and the film opens with what looks like actual photos of the real-life atrocities in Cambodia, from the time of the Khmer Rouge. These provide the kind of horror that the ensuing ghost-train level of scares can't hope to compete with. The movie also deeply upset the people of Cambodia, who subsequently didn't allow the film's release in their country.

In the film, the contestants are literally sent up the river to a remote jungle setting and taken through the rules. They are locked in the prison and told to explore. Sure enough ghosts soon start to appear to some of the party. But that's when I started struggling with the internal logic of this particular ghost phenomenon. The ghosts close in on people, touch them, scare them and then... leave. Sometimes everyone can see it, sometimes not. What's the ghost up to? Surely it's not taking directions from the TV director? It's certainly playing the game.

With the gamers strapped into torture chairs, or lying in crates filled with skulls, this is a reality TV show that I'd watch, as long as it was my least favourite celebrities.

The scares certainly build up effectively, but mostly because of ear-splitting sound-effects that guarantee the jolt. The ghosts get more violent, things start going wrong and the fact that it's on nationwide TV is quickly forgotten. As the gamers start dying off, the most gruesome action is edited around, almost like it's avoiding being too intense. After a tight opening volley of scares, the pace falters halfway through.

The saturated greenish hue and contrasty lighting certainly adds to the morbid atmosphere, but when everything looks green, you can't easily see the colour of blood. Also the scenes are sometimes too dark - there's one with a hanging corpse that you could easily miss. The shot has been electronically darkened so much, that it's almost invisible in the shadows.

The clips from the film that are used in the trailer, included on this Thai DVD, look considerably lighter than the finished film. The trailer looks more like the TV show it's supposed to be. Someone's obviously made everything look more filmic in post-production, at the expense of the action being visible!

The cast are the usual crowd of good-looking teenagers, a similar ploy used in Thai horrors Scared and Art of the Devil, and their acting is at least better than the average Friday the 13th movie, or is that faint praise?

A potentially strong and interesting premise is frittered away with a simple story with few scares, constantly interrupted by the daylight scenes between rounds of 'the game'.

Do you want to know more?

If you want a second opinion, Slasherpool has another review and some screengrabs.

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