Geisha of Gore Review: DEMON WARRIORS (2007)
GEISHA OF GORE REVIEW: DEMON WARRIORS (2007)
By Colleen Wanglund
When I say “religious-based horror” what do you think of? In Western horror, it’s usually movies like THE EXORCIST (1973), THE OMEN (1976) and ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968). In Thailand, one of the predominant religions is Buddhism, and that is the basis for the 2007 movie DEMON WARRIORS.
Written and directed by Thanakorn Pongsuwan (and co-written by Yutnathorn Kaewthong) DEMON WARRIORS (or OPAPATIKA in Thai), tells the story of a battle that breaks out between humans and the opapatika. A narrator explains that in the Buddhist tradition there are three types of natural birth. One is sangsethaca, in which life comes out of rot and decay, like worms and maggots. The second is anthaca which is birth from an egg. The third is chalaphucha where life comes from the womb, like humans and animals. There is a fourth, but unnatural, birth called the opapatika which can only occur through suicide. These opapatika, or demons, are supernatural beings with un-human-like powers. It is also explained that there is a price to pay for these powers, because suicide is a sin.
Techit (Leo Putt) is a private detective investigating the demons. He is turned into an opapatika by Sadok (Nirut Sirichanya), who employs Techit to find four particular demons. Techit is assisted by Thuwachit (Pongpat Wachirabanjong), Sadok’s human henchman (and the narrator). The two are sent out with armed mercenaries to find the four particular demons and bring them to Sadok. Techit is also told to follow a woman named Pran (Khemupsorn Sirisukha), whom the opapakitas seem to be drawn to.
The four opapakitas that Sadok wants brought to him are very powerful. Paison (Shahkrit Yamnarm) is an assassin who is scarred with the lethal wounds he inflicts on others. Ramil (Athip Nana) is an adrenaline junkie who can project a powerful and deadly spirit to do his bidding. Arut (Ray MacDonald) is an invincible and ruthless fighter at night, but is weak during the day and has no memory of what he did the night before. Finally there is Jirat (Somchai Kemglad) who is immortal, but he considers this a curse.
Techit and Thuwachit, along with many paramilitary types, spend a good deal of the movie tracking down the opapatikas and trying to subdue them. That isn’t so easy. We also eventually discover that Sadok is rotting away and will die very soon. He needs to feed on the hearts of the opapatikas to prevent his death and give him their individual powers. The woman Pran—who may be a demon—seems to be attempting to talk Jirat and Paison into giving themselves up, with the promise of relief from their suffering. There are flashbacks to Paison’s life before his suicide and they include his wife’s rape and murder. Consumed with a need for revenge, Paison killed himself to gain the power to exact that revenge. This also has allowed him to fall in love with Pran and protect her. Pran is seen with Jirat many times but he doesn’t trust her. Jirat thinks something is not right about Pran and tries to warn the others.
Each of the opapatikas gains a super power when they die, but, as I mentioned earlier, there is a price to pay for that power. The opapatikas, with the exception of Jirat, can be killed by other opapatika. They also discover that they still suffer the grief that led them to commit suicide and seek out their present plane of existence. In addition to this suffering, there are consequences to using their power. Techit’s power is intuition, or reading minds. Every time he reads someone’s mind, however, he loses one of his five human senses. Arut, as stated earlier, is an unstoppable fighter when the sun sets but is weak during the day. And whenever Ramil sends out his monstrous spirit, he becomes physically uglier.
While DEMON WARRIORS has an interesting story, I have major issues with its execution. As far as the characters go, the only one who has any depth is Paison. We see bits of his past and what spurred his choice of suicide in the first place. We know nothing of the other opapatika, except the prices they pay for their strengths. We don’t even know why Techit became an opapatika. There is a brief exchange between Techit and Sadok where the detective tells Sadok that he’ll hunt down the other opapatikas as long as Techit gets what he wants….but what does he want? We don’t know. Later in the film, Sadok tells Jirat that he envied his gift of immortality. We are also told that Jirat has no memory of a life prior to becoming a demon. Was he more than just a man who committed suicide? No idea but that could have made for an even more interesting story. Why did the others commit suicide to become demons? We are never informed. The characters, for the most part are flat. Jirat gets a bit intriguing for the pain that his immortality causes him, but even that fails epically.
During the same early conversation between Techit and Sadok we are informed that no human can kill an opapatika. So why send all of those mercenaries to their deaths? There are a massive amount of bloody deaths in this film, but it crosses the line into overkill. I love a good fight scene, but after a while they just become tedious exercises in wasting time. The fight scenes and wild shoot-outs are effectively pointless, since the human mercenaries cannot do any real harm to the demons. And what a huge waste of money for Sadok, who must pay to arm them! It’s just silly.
I also had an issue with the portrayal of the opapatikas. They were dead but could still interact with the corporeal world around them. They could be seen by others as regular humans and even have sex, and yet there never seemed to be anyone around when the fighting was going on. And what about other opapatika? Surely there are others….aren’t there? If it is in fact a parallel existence then how could Paison be an assassin-for-hire and Ramil be involved in drag races? The demons can kill humans and yet there is no real physical distinction being made. There was some confusion, as well, when it came to Techit. If he used his mind reading power he would lose his five senses, one at a time. Techit lost his hearing first, but I didn’t see where this was detrimental to him. Even when he supposedly lost his sight, he didn’t remotely seem blind. What was up with that? Karma may be a bitch but in this flick she’s a pussycat.
Then there is the character Pran. We do ultimately find out who this woman really is, but for most of the movie we, as well as the opapatika are clueless. She spouts a lot of philosophy in her quest to get the demons to work together for….what? She promises relief from their painful existence, but what does this relief entail? Paison has projected his feelings for his dead wife onto Pran and wants to protect her. Jirat finally tells them not to trust her, but it’s too late. Pran, like most of the characters in DEMON WARRIORS is two-dimentional. There is no substance what-so-ever.
I had anticipated a decent movie when I started watching, but I ended up bored and unimpressed. DEMON WARRIORS was a mess, in my opinion. It ran too long, used fight sequences too often, left far too many loose ends and didn’t use special effects very effectively. I also found it far too preachy on the subject of suicide. Of course it’s a bad thing, but the movie tries too hard to hit you over the head with its message. DEMON WARRIORS is rambling and muddy. I wasted an hour and forty-five minutes of my time so you won’t have to waste yours.
© Copyright 2011 by Colleen Wanglund