October 02, 2008

THE VICTIM (2006) - superior Thai horror

(2006, Thailand, Phii khon pen)

This popular Thai horror has just been released on DVD in the US, and a rave review in Video Watchdog prompted me to finally watch my Thai DVD, which was easy enough to follow despite the lack of subtitles.

Bright young Ting helps the police by acting as the victim in murder re-enactments, staged for the press in the hope of gaining further information on the crimes, while adding drama for the press and TV news. But as she researches her roles more thoroughly, Ting begins to connect with the victims, saying a prayer and lighting incense at each murder scene.
Unwittingly, she starts to accumulate their unhappy spirits who are waiting for justice to be done...

While The Victim has many startling shock moments and effective creep-outs, the early scares have a tinge of comedy - in line with the popular Thai horror comedies like the Buppah Rahtree films. There's also some successful comedy moments in the non-scary scenes, like when Ting's acting proves so convincing in a reconstruction, that the public pile in to beat up the actor playing her 'murderer'. The scares are still numerous and solid, ranking this as a far scarier and inventive Thai horror film than most, especially the laborious, badly-acted Thai slashers, like the Art of the Devil series. I was also very impressed with the central plot twist, which the publicity cleverly avoids hinting at...

Overall, this is very satisfying, and director,
Monthon Arayangkoon, is now forgiven for inflicting the patchy monster movie Garuda (2004) on the world. The Victim is different enough to be set apart from other Eastern horrors, with superior acting and cinematography, and appropriately creepy camera moves subtly enhancing the scares. My only reservation is that some of the more ambitious effects look a little too digital, but maybe that was a budgetary limitation.

The end credits are at pains to show supposed evidence of spirit photography lurking in several shots in the film. The 'making of' documentary takes the phenomenon seriously, interviewing the cast and exploiting the same superstitions as the previous Thai horror hit Shutter (2004).

By the way, is it me or did the grey ghosts and scary posters from The Victim have an influence on the publicity art for the recent US remake of Pulse, with more dark grey hands reaching out of the darkness...

David Kalat's very positive review in Video Watchdog reports that the US DVD (from Tartan) has poorly translated subtitles and, more damagingly, no translations at all for the numerous headlines and signs. This is a shame because The Victim is easily one of the country's scariest offerings.

Instead, I'm considering getting the Korean DVD release, which usually have very good English subtitles. Though when shopping around, buyers should beware of the many other films, from both East and West, that are also called The Victim.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the review - this movie looks interesting.

    I shall add it to my Netflix Queue :-)