October 29, 2008

Still not on DVD - THE HAND OF NIGHT (1966) - our Beast in Morocco

(Updated 1st August 2013...)

Trawling through old VHS tapes, I'm reminded of good films that still aren't on DVD. I can only guess why this has dropped out of circulation. There may be confusion over copyright or the cost of restoration may be too great for the perceived demand.

But it's a movie I'd love to see get a new lease of life...


I first saw this at the cinema on what was presumably a re-release, around 1968. It made quite an impression on me as a pre-teen, because of the upfront use of skulls and bloodied bats in the bizarrely literal title sequence, and for the disintegration scene in the climax, realised in a series of close-up, special FX make-ups. I always caught it when it showed again on TV, and wasn't disappointed by repeated viewings. The opening nightmare scene, the death-obsessed characters and the beautiful soundtrack by Joan Shakespeare, all continue to fascinate.

Architect Paul Carver (William Sylvester) believes he is a 'harbinger of death', as bad luck dogs his every move. After the deaths of his wife and children, he takes a business trip to Morocco where he meets an archaeologist (Edward Underdown) excavating an ancient tomb. Inside, a newly unearthed Princess of Darkness takes advantage of Carver's fatalistic mood to try and lure him into the land of night.

Not even the pretty young Chantel (Diane Clare) can cheer him out of depression, not that she feels sorry for him. When she hears that Carver is newly bereaved, there are no quiet sympathetic words. Instead, she immediately lays into him for being morbid! I was shocked by her reaction, but don't think that it's an unrealistic approach. She's passionate and, well, French. Even though we, or Chantel, haven't established just how recently the fatal accident was that wiped out his family, she's very angry at him for giving up on life.

He's dwelling on the past, blaming himself and looking forward to drinking himself into oblivion. She continues to challenge his defeatism and continuing fascination with 'the dark'. Although it's not explicit, his fascination for the shadowy, reincarnated Marisa infers he is ready to give up on life. She's a very different breed of vampire, feeding on hope...

Shot mostly on location in Morocco, the film has an unusual look and 'feel'. Considering that Hammer's style of Dracula films was all the rage, this is quite a departure from the gothic castles and vampire mythos of the time. As well as a very different variation of their Egyptian mummy films.

William Sylvester stars, seen here between leading roles in Gorgo and 2001 - A Space Odyssey. Alizia Gur plays the 'vampire' after making a striking debut in the sweaty gypsy camp catfight in From Russia With Love. Diane Clare represents 'the light' and the love interest, in the same year she starred in Hammer's Plague of the Zombies. A special mention also for Terence De Marney as the maniacal Omar, the henchman doing the dirty work of the dark side. He'd just appeared in Die Monster Die, one of Boris Karloff's last films.

On balance, there are a few low-budget faults which I must warn you of that might be distracting. Many of the exteriors were shot day-for-night - quite a task considering Morocco's blistering sunlight. The TV print I watched seems to have completely lost track of which scenes are day or night, and some of the night-time scenes are as warm and light as daytime! Even if there was a 1.85 widescreen crop over the 4:3 image, it wouldn’t remove the bright blue sky from many of these scenes. The climax seems to have been partly shot at dawn, which makes it the most convincing of the night-time scenes, even though it takes place in open desert.

William Dexter and Edward Underdown
This is also a very accent-heavy film. All the secondary characters have thick French accents (Morocco's second language) and the two main vampires, De Marney and Gur both seem to have been 'looped' by different actors. Some viewers may be distracted by these technicalities, especially when modern sound-mixing is so much more careful.

Fans of mechanical bats will also delight in the fakery of the title sequence and those that appear throughout the film. One fairly convincing upward shot of the night sky, with a bat shadowing the architect, is spoilt by intercutting with the actor in daylight surroundings, a reverse situation from the jarring dove shot in Blade Runner.

Like many films of the time, the characters are vague about geographical details further than anything familiar to a general audience. They refer to Morocco, but not the cities or areas they are in. I also found this with heist caper Maroc 7 (1967), where the characters travel around Morocco without mentioning where in the country they are. On a recent visit to Marakesh, I was hoping to establish that The Hand of Night had been filmed there, but couldn't find anything at all familiar, apart from the walled city. The desert scenes also look very different to the landscapes in the recent The Hills Have Eyes remake, which was shot around nearby Ouarzazate, doubling for New Mexico. There are beach scenes in The Hand of Night that make me presume this could be Casablanca, somewhere closer to the coast.

I'd recommend The Hand of Night to fans of 1960's British horror. It has solid, dramatic performances, gloomy supernatural drama, and is thick on atmosphere. But it’s not on DVD and I've not seen it on British TV for over 15 years. There are tatty bootlegs out there, but the film deserves much better. I’m baffled that William Sylvester's other sixties horrors Devils of Darkness (1965) and The Devil Doll (1964) have beaten this to DVD.

On YouTube, here are the opening moments of the UK version, including Joan Shakespeare's haunting music, the unusual title sequence and the introductory nightmare that sets up the story...

October 25, 2008

TOKYO ZOMBIE (2005) - Tadanobu Asano in a funny wig

(2005, Japan)

Finally got to see this, now that it’s been released in the UK on region 2 DVD. It’s a shock to see Tadanobu Asano in an afro wig in a zombie comedy - his latest appearance is as the young Genghis Khan in the first instalment of the epic Russian trilogy, Mongol!

I always think of Tadanobu Asano as appearing in slightly quirky, quality drama (Zatoichi), with some offbeat arthouse (Invisible Waves, The Last Life in the Universe) and the occasional offbeat horror (Gemini). But I guess Ichi The Killer should have clued me in that the actor is up for anything.

Tokyo Zombie starts off well enough, with Asano and Sho Aikawa as two amoral slackers on the frontline of a new zombie outbreak. This is caused by dumping too many corpses in with too much toxic rubbish on the outskirts of Tokyo, and named Black Fuji because it’s such a big pile. In reality this could have been filmed anywhere in Japan – for instance the early action takes place in a grotty factory and at a rubbish tip. This disappointed me because I was expecting Tokyo to feature in Tokyo Zombie.

The accent is on the stupidity of the two friends who are more interested in practising jiu-jitsu than working, or fighting zombies. I first thought that the wrestling was a long set-up for a later gag, but it’s more like the core of the story! The early scenes of people dumping bodies are unusual, irreverent, and edgy. Though a sub-plot about a lecherous teacher is more mercilessly aggressive than funny, and ties in with an insecurity about the duo's preoccupation with denying they are gay, despite their close and physical friendship. This dated much of the humour and pitched it about the level of schoolboy comedy.

Taking to the road to escape the growing zombie horde, the two literally pick up a young woman, but then around halfway in, the story comes to a dead halt, and goes in a completely new direction. Nowhere. Stalling for too long in an obviously small set and a not very elegant story contrivance. This is where the film lost me, by throwing away all the gathered momentum and never recovered.

I'm probably missing a lot of the humour, but the story also chooses to explore the sketchy characters like they could actually exist, and also introduces other eccentrics with even thinner motivations.

The zombie action is fun when it's allowed to interrupt, and there are a few well-staged and elaborate visual gags. Adana seems to be enjoying himself, though his acting isn't even stretched as much as Aikawa. It’s all bizarre and quirky, rather than funny. So if you want something different, it's certainly a very different scenario. But the story looks to me like the first and last chapter of a manga, with the middle torn out.

It’s in the same tournament, but not in the same league, as Shaun of the Dead.

UPDATE 13th April 2009
Tokyo Zombie
is also out now on DVD in the USA...

October 24, 2008

KAIDAN (2007) - old ghost story from Hideo Nakata

(2007, Japan)

Hideo Nakata is internationally famous for directing Ring (1998). But its huge success has been a tough act to follow. I’ve been entertained but not impressed by his other films. His early ghost stories were interesting for Ring fans (like Ghost Actress/Don't Look Up), but after his Japanese sequel, Ring 2 (1999), he avoided horror for a few years until Dark Water (2002). He’s been to America to direct the US sequel The Ring Two (2005) and IMDB reports he’s in place for The Ring Three in the future. Meanwhile Chaos, Sleeping Bride, and the recent sequel to Death Note, L: Change the World, maintain his success in Japan.

With last year’s Kaidan, Nakata sets himself up for a huge fall by telling a period ghost story. Not only is the mixture of samurai and vengeance demons a genre that was perfected in 1960s Japan, their last great international horror boom, but he's also used a similar name to the best of that genre. Kwaidan (1964), also known as Kaidan, one of the most famous of all Japanese films.

As always, I read very little about this film in advance, and wasn’t even sure whether Nakata had remade any of the stories from the original. I was then thrown by the posters and the DVD cover art, which made this new Kaidan look more like a comedy.

It starts with a storyteller talking to camera - I assumed the character would reappear to link several stories together. But no, this turned out to be one long story. There’s a hurried prologue which flashes back to the origins of a family curse - a sadistic landowner wipes clean his slate by killing a moneylender. These scenes rush through years of events very quickly, before the movie slows to a snail's pace. The long set-up doesn't start paying back until halfway through, when it starts actually being a horror story.

The crux of the curse was reused to death in the earliest Japanese horrors, a disfigured woman taking revenge on a man by possessing his wife. Nakata adds sex and fresh new scares, but they are scarce and not always logical. As the curse continues, many other victims get drawn in, but over the years (it’s a very slow curse) the story starts to drag and even gets repetitive.

There’s as much melodrama as horror, and even a scene more suitable for Seven Samurai. All this effort might have been worthwhile if it looked gorgeous, like the 1964 Kwaidan. The make-up, dresses and scenery all look suitably accurate, but not particularly interesting or eye-catching. Attempts to expand the scale of the visuals with digital FX of townscapes are unconvincing.

Elongating a simple, oft-told ghost story to feature-length, has left me pining for Nakata to only return to horror if he doesn’t combine so many genres in future.

Kaidan is currently available with English subtitles on a Hong Kong DVD release from CN Entertainment (pictured at top).

You're recommended instead to try Kwaidan (1964), currently available in the UK and US.

Update April 2009
Video Watchdog issue 148 has a huge article comparing Nakata's Kaidan to an earlier black and white version of the story.

October 16, 2008

BOMBER & PAGANINI (1976) - uniquely black comedy

(1976, West Germany)

Why do films become obscure?
Britain's BBC2 used to run interesting European films in late night slots in the 1970's and 1980's, some of which I'd like to see again. This one in particular caught my eye because of its bleak, black humour and huge dollops of irony. While I'm trying to limit Black Hole reviews to recommendations of must-see films, this is more of a simple acknowledgment of a good film that's become obscure (outside it's own country). Maybe this will help someone out there troubled by their own vague memories of thirty years ago.

It also makes me wonder where these films go, why do they become obscure, or even completely disappear? Black & white films and silent movies are rarer on TV than they used to be. These now have to be actively hunted down rather than discovered by channel-hopping. I've learnt that films can suddenly become hard to see. 'Obscure film heaven' is a dusty shelf somewhere...

Anyhow, wanting to see this particular vague memory again wasn't so easy - I couldn't remember it's name or even the country where it was made. For years, I've been searching for a Polish film about a guy in a wheelchair and a blind guy playing football - only recently I found out it was German, out on DVD, and had nothing to do with football! I saw it on a black-and-white TV, so I was surprised that it was actuall shot in colour. The DVD has no English translation, but I couldn't wait any longer.

The set-up is simple: Bomber and Paganini are two inept crooks who attempt a jewel heist by cracking a safe. But stupidity and acetylene torches don't mix - Bomber winds up blinded, and Paganini loses the use of his legs. After a lengthy stay in the prison hospital, they reluctantly team up again, out of necessity. Paganini can see for both of them and needs Bomber to push his wheelchair. But while inside, they've been usurped from their sleazy nightclub headquarters, their only remaining allies are a few prostitutes they used to pimp, and Bomber's mother. This all may sound a bit Farrelly Brothers, but while the characters are slightly stylised, it still feels grubbily real.

The hapless duo initially struggle to make any sort of money, resorting to ridiculous penny-pinching schemes. The film meanders through several random escapades before eventually focussing again on a grand scheme for them to regain all that they've lost, and revenge themselves.

While it's full of wry observational humour, it doesn't get tempted by any slapstick humour for easy laughs. There's some great moments of physical comedy, but their disabilities are believably portrayed, particularly Paganini struggling along without the use of both legs and one arm, shrunken dejectedly into his wheelchair, partly lost inside a huge coat. He somewhat resembles a weaselly version of Robert Carlyle. Bomber reminded me more of an oafish Jean Reno (perhaps it was his Leon glasses).

The two actors also appear to perform most of their own stunts, which involve a variety of high-speed wheelchair crashes. Both actors are still working today - you may even have seen Bomber (Mario Adorf) as 'Consalvi' in Dario Argento's, The Bird With The Crystal Plumage (1970), and glimpsed Paganini (Tilo Pr├╝ckner) as 'Night Hob' in The Neverending Story (1984), also shot in Germany. They're supported by an wide cast of character actors as the other slightly surreal low lifes.

Much of the film appears grittily real because of the large amount of outdoor and location filming, though it's all impeccably photographed and subtly well lit. The DVD certainly doesn't make the film look its age.

Bizarrely this German DVD (available here) includes a rambling trailer that's dubbed into English, though there are no subtitles or dub on the main feature. While this indicates it must have had an English release (somewhere), the only non-Germans with love for this seem to be those who also saw it TV in the UK.

There are a few more black and white photos from the film on the Crazy Media site - click on the small thumbnail at top right, labelled 'Screenshots'.

October 13, 2008

MANIAC COP - 1 2 3 ...and maybe 4

Good movie sequels are pretty rare. Maniac Cop 2 is a great example of a memorable follow-up that delivers even more than the first. I've rewatched all three Maniac Cop films to double-check my favouritism, and also learned that work has started on a possible Maniac Cop 4! Let's rewind and look at the whole maniacal saga...

In 1980, director William Lustig struck video nasty gold with his low-budget horror Maniac - the tale of a deranged serial killer (actor Joe Spinell certainly looked the part) who assaults, kills and scalps his female victims. This was the kind of slasher that got everyone upset, because women were victims, stalked at length and then realistically scalped (courtesy of Tom Savini's bloody make-up FX). Graphic, controversial, usually censored and therefore a hit on dodgy VHS.

(1988, USA)

After shooting the bloody cop thriller Vigilante (1983), Lustig combined his police and horror genres. Maniac Cop introduced a street cop turned random serial killer, with a short sword hidden in his night stick. As the murders continue, the public get spooked by anyone with a badge. 

The resulting subversive scenario - society losing faith in the police force - is typical of producer Larry Cohen's work (the It's Alive trilogy, The Stuff). Another twist is that the couple investigating the case (played by The Evil Dead's Bruce Campbell and Laurene Landon) get implicated as the killers, because the main suspect is dead! Or is he... Tom Atkins (The Fog, Night of the Creeps) is the unlucky detective trying to unravel the mess.

While the killer is being tracked down in a city in panic, we also get his backstory and meet everyone involved - it's all very plot heavy. Also Bruce Campbell's trademark humour is forcibly subdued here. Lustig cashes in on his Maniac reputation, but pulls back on the violence, trading in
 for pumped up action scenes. There's a nighttime car chase where one of the vehicles is on fire, and a superb and highly dangerous-looking crash. It's all fun enough, but the sequel would take everything up a notch.

Maniac Cop has been released twice on DVD in the US, first remastered widescreen (above) and also recently in a Synapse Special Edition.

(1990, USA)

The sequel generously kicks off with a repeat of the dynamite climax of Maniac Cop. As the cop continues to kill, the police discover they've been after the wrong man. Maniac Cop ups his game by teaming up with another serial killer in a diabolical plan to avenge himself, (and conclude some unfinished business left hanging in the first). Bruce Campbell is back, but Robert Davi (the Bond baddie in License To Kill) and Claudia Christian (sensational as stripper turned alien killing machine in The Hidden) are new on the case - Davi plays a disillusioned hard-boiled detective, Christian a street-smart lawyer.

There follows a series of astonishing action scenes, all expanding on the stunts in the first film. They all benefit from being shot at night. A car chase where one vehicle has its tyres ripped off, causes sparks to fly off the bare wheel rims - the entire car chase is spectacularly lit by the sparks alone. There's a gob-smacking runaway car stunt, with a stuntwoman handcuffed to the steering wheel, from the outside! Then there's a huge slow-motion brawl, while Maniac Cop is on fire, but just carries on fighting, letting his victims catch fire as they try to defend themselves - a prolonged series of astonishing stunts...

It's action-horror! Way before Jeepers Creepers, there was a unique sub-genre of car chase action, starting in 1970s horror movies. Death Race 2000 mixed elements of gory horror into a futuristic road race. Race With The Devil piled on the atmosphere, with satanists racing and chasing their victims along America's backroads. The Car was possessed by the Devil, bringing sacrifice to the highways. Later The Hitcher (1986) put the 'stalk and slash' into a road movie. Not to mention the Phantasm films adding high speed hearse action, including the incredible barrel roll stunt in Phantasm III.

Anyway, the 'serial killer team-up' sub-plot gets a little annoying, but the story regains a sense of purpose towards the climax, which brings a spectacular and logical closure that the first film lacked. I rate Maniac Cop 2 over most Friday the 13th and Halloween sequels in the category of most entertaining 'undead killer'.

I've given up waiting for a Special Edition of Maniac Cop 2 - it isn't even on DVD in the US, and no sign of happening in the near future. Instead, I bought the UK region 2 DVD (above) - the 1.33 aspect ratio is a little tight, but it's a clear good-looking transfer. Two original trailers are included - the one made specifically for home video has snappier music and a sharper choice of money-shots. The classic movie trailer tagline is "You have the right to remain silent... Forever... Again". But as you can see above, the DVD cover misquotes this, repeating the tagline from the first film.

(1993, USA)

My hopes were way too high for this sequel, and it was apparently a troubled production - the trailer credits another director as well as Lustig. (There's a couple more clues in this interview on Slasherama). It's still very watchable, but the story is more of a cop thriller, with Maniac Cop only really appearing in a feeble retread of scenes from Halloween II, stalking around a hospital. It's not until the final action sequences when it begins to look anything like a Maniac Cop film.

The film really belongs to Robert Davi who holds everything together. He also has a great supporting cast, including Julius Harris (another Bond baddie, from Live and Let Die), Robert Forster (Vigilante, Alligator, The Black Hole, Dragon Wars) in an amusing cameo, Doug Savant (now a regular in Desperate Housewives), Bobby Di Cicco (no longer the fresh-faced star of Spielberg's 1941) and Jackie Earle Haley (The Bad News Bears, Damnation Alley - just before he took a long break from acting).

Maniac Cop 3 is available on DVD, once again only fullframe in the UK, and the cover art is uninspiring (the grittier VHS artwork is displayed above).

While Googling the trilogy, I hit the news that Maniac Cop 4 is now on the boards, as William Lustig and Larry Cohen have now regained the sequel rights. Check here for any more news and lots more Maniac Cop stuff. It's time for me to start getting my hopes up again...

October 11, 2008

THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE (1973) - go in, or don't!


In the 1970s, writer Richard Matheson set upon the foundations of gothic horror, with a mission to bring them up to date – placing a vampire on modern American streets in the influential The Night Stalker TV movie, and every other classic monster in the series that followed. In Matheson’s earlier novel, I Am Legend, he had vampires who could be explained scientifically rather than supernaturally. In his novel Hell House, he tackled a haunting from two directions, with psychics and scientists…

Four investigators come to “the Mount Everest of haunted houses” in order to solve its mysteries, even though the last attempt meant death for almost all of them. This is a similar plot to The Haunting (1963), which is far more critically acclaimed, but I much prefer Hell House, perhaps because I saw it in the cinema. The two titles are easily confused - Shirley Jackson’s book, The Haunting of Hill House, was shortened to the movie title The Haunting, while Richard Matheson’s novel Hell House had its title lengthened to The Legend of Hell House for the movie adaption. Are we clear?

The Legend of Hell House also beat The Exorcist into the cinema by six months in the US, they both have possessions, bad language and demons with sexual motivations. Hell House is far tamer, however and it’s structure is closer to Spielberg’s Poltergeist, while being far more serious in tone. There’s no comic relief in this old dark house…

One of the team is temporarily possessed, and having a good experienced actress in the role makes Pamela Franklin’s performance an interesting comparison to Linda Blair, who was obviously a newcomer to the movies when she appeared in The Exorcist. Unlike the period costume horror films of the Hammer Studios, here was a British-made film in a modern setting. The devilish plot meant that here was one horror that kept on being re-released as long as movie double-bills survived in the seventies, which is how I got to first see it - in 1976 on a double-bill with The Antichrist an Italian Exorcist riff.

Hell House hits the ground running – there’s a brief set-up, then the team arrive at the house and they’re inside before the titles are over. The building is shrouded in fog (for days on end!). The movie is thick with atmosphere, created by the intense but largely restrained performances, aided by the distorting lens of wide-angle cinematography, and backed by Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson’s electronic soundtrack. This superior accompaniment is more like vibrations than music. The two composers were from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, and in 1963 it was Derbyshire who engineered the first extraordinary Doctor Who theme there, based on Ron Grainer's composition.

Though the reputation of the house is regularly refered to as a being a haven for murder and debauchery (loosely based on the stories about satanist Aleister Crowley), the film suffers by having no physical evidence lying around. Presumably to avoid censorship hassle, the resulting film is almost too tame, but still garnered an 'X' certificate in the UK. It’s creepy, violent, sexually violent, but tastefully pulls its punches. I think it’s still strong enough to please a modern audience. For a stronger version of the story, you'll have to seek out a copy of Matheson's book.

The small cast are marvellous, though Roddy McDowall’s American acting style is far broader than the rest of the cast, who successfully underplay. McDowall was just at the end of his many Planet of the Apes roles. Here he plays the only survivor of the previous incursion into Hell House, twenty years earlier. Another former child actor (her first role was in The Innocents) was the criminally underused Pamela Franklin, who made several cult horror films, like And Soon The Darkness, and then briefly returned to TV roles after the ridiculous The Food of the Gods. Pamela has the toughest part as an over-sensitive medium.

Clive Revill was better known as a comedy actor, as Dirk Bogarde’s sidekick in Modesty Blaise, and as a Russian aristocrat in Billy Wilder’s The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. Here he excels as the project leader, designer of a machine that he hopes to cure the haunting with. Revill is still working, mainly in voiceovers – one of his famous early offscreen roles being the original Emperor Palpatine’s voice in The Empire Strikes Back. The lovely Gayle Hunnicut plays his wife – her other great horror role was Eye of the Cat.

I think this is easily director John Hough’s best film, over The Watcher in the Woods, and Twins of Evil, though more recently American Gothic (aka Hide and Seek) showed he’d still got it. The mostly ingenious special effects are all in-camera, apart from some eerie optical work for the manifestation of ectoplasm.

20th Century Fox’s DVD widecreen transfer restores the vibrant colour of some of the sets, particularly the sinful deep reds of the bedrooms. It’s never looked better, and there’s a 4.0 audio track too. It's available in the UK and US.

Recently, some of the striking camera compositions were recently plundered and copied for Edgar Wright’s superb pastiche trailer for the Tarantino and Rodriguez’ Grindhouse intermission, for the made-up film Don’t!. A keenly-observed and funny homage.

In 2013 - we visited the house used for the exteriors of Hell House - more photos here...

KILLDOZER joins the TV Movies update

A genre peculiar to the 1970s were the made-for-TV movies which had a supernatural horror storyline. Killdozer was so successful that it span off into the world of comics (see the entire comic adaption here).

I've expanded my original entry on the TV movie horror genre and logged which titles are now on DVD. Read it here at TV Movie horror - THE NORLISS TAPES (1973) and more.

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.