There have been many horror movies made in Thailand, but, unfortunately only so many get to Western audiences . They’re usually picked up in Hong Kong which is a main distribution hub for Southeast Asia . It all has to do with DVD encoding . DVD players are made to specifics of six different regions—you can’t play a DVD from Japan in a DVD player made for American DVDs . Making a movie available in more regions can create increased profits for movie companies, but it can also be expensive to produce, so smaller movie industries may not feel it’s worth the added cost . As for these movies coming to theaters, it’s not likely to happen—maybe in New York and Los Angeles, where there might be an audience for a midnight screening . It also costs additional money for these movies to be picked up in theaters here in the West . Below are a few really good Thai horror films that you can get on DVD, or at least watch online.
THE VICTIM (Phii Khon Pen) (2006) directed by Monthon Arayangkoon, tells the story of Ting, an aspiring actress who is hired by Lieutenant Te of the police department for crime scene reenactments . This technique helps the police solve crimes—I’m not sure how it works, but I’ve seen it in movies from Southeast Asia before . These reenactments are staged in the actual spot the crimes occurred. Ting is recruited to play the female victims of violent crimes. Worried about angering the spirits of the dead women, Ting says a prayer and burns incense after every reenactment . She goes on to do these reenactments for other police stations in the city and eventually gets a role on a soap opera . Ting soon becomes interested in the case of Meen, a former Miss Thailand who is missing and believed dead . The police have found bits of human tissue identified as Meen’s, and they believe her husband is responsible for her murder. Lieutenant Te originally decided to have a female police officer play Meen in the reenactments, but she mysteriously dies before they can begin . Ting, in the meantime, has begun having nightmares in which other female victims are asking for her help in solving their murders. Ting is reluctantly brought in by Lieutenant Te to play Meen, and it seems as though Meen’s ghost has possessed her. She feels a spiritual connection to Meen and doesn’t believe Meen’s husband did it, so she takes it upon herself to try and solve Meen’s murder. This drives Ting to confront the actual killer, who turns out to be Meen’s closest friend, a plastic surgeon . Meen’s friend is a lesbian and was apparently upset at being rejected. What ultimately occurs, however, is far from expected.
Trust me I’m not giving away anything . In the movies reality and fantasy can merge and blur and THE VICTIM is no exception . What you start off watching is not what you think it is . I had already decided that THE VICTIM was a good horror film, when it then took a 180-degree turn and went in a completely different direction—which was great! When it happened I was stunned—I never saw it coming. It’s a ghost story within a ghost story, but with a mighty big twist . I thought there was some brilliant storytelling and directing from Arayangkoon. I can’t say anymore because I don’t want to ruin anything . I’m glad THE VICTIM was one of the really good ones to make it to the West . I watched it on the Sundance channel and there is an Asian movies On Demand channel on cable, as well as a website online that specializes in Asian films (which I will provide at the end of this article) . If you can find it, watch it.
THE MEAT GRINDER (2009) directed by Tiwa Moeithaisong is another great horror film from Thailand . It is about a Thai woman who works very hard running a noodle cart to help support her family, including her husband and younger sister. She learns that her husband has run off and left her with his gambling debts, when the people he owes money too come to her for payment. To pay those debts she eventually goes from running a noodle cart to opening a noodle restaurant. She ultimately ends up with quite a following, based largely on the secret ingredient in her noodles.
Okay, I’m not giving anything away by telling what the secret ingredient is—to quote Charlton Heston in SOYLENT GREEN (1973) — “It’s people!” We find this out within the first ten minutes or so when, during a police crackdown on demonstrators, a dead man ends up inside her noodle cart. She decides to butcher the body and add the ground-up ‘meat’ into her noodle recipe. Yes, it has shades of SWEENEY TODD (2007), but it’s not exactly the same. For one, this movie has more gore and no singing. Secondly, her new male companion has no idea what her secret ingredient is. As the movie progresses, we discover the woman may not be too stable (to put it lightly). Her past, both distant and recent, are shown through flashbacks, that are done well and at the right times in the story . We discover the abuse she suffered as a child, and the further abuse she suffered as an adult at the hands of her husband . There are a couple of scenes that probably could have been shorter, and by the time we learn she is hearing voices, it’s almost the end of the movie. The only other thing I had an issue with, was the music that was played during a part of the movie where shots of the couple having sex for the first time —which are interspersed with scenes of dismemberment. The whole sequence was great–really twisted–but the music was a really bad choice . Overall, I really liked the movie.
Finally, COMING SOON (2008) is a horror movie which was recently released in Hong Kong. The movie was written and directed by Sophon Sakdaphisit, who also co-wrote the Thai movie SHUTTER (2004). This is actually Sakdaphisit’s directorial debut . The story centers on Chen, a young man who works in the projection booth of a movie multiplex, who uses his job to help his brother-in-law copy movies illegally to DVD prior to their widespread release. One night while copying a horror movie entitled “Vengeful Spirit”, Chen falls asleep . When he wakes up after the movie has ended, he realizes that his brother-in-law has disappeared, leaving behind only the digital camcorder. When Chen attempts to copy the movie himself, he sees his brother-in-law in the movie, having his eyes gouged out by the villain Chaba . It now seems that Chaba, the villain in “Vengeful Spirit” has crossed into the real world . Soon after, Chen begins to see and experience some very strange things; there’s a blurring of the line between movies and reality . With the help of his ex-wife Som, Chen attempts to figure out what’s going on and how to stop it before anyone else disappears at the hands of Chaba.
I really liked this movie. My synopsis doesn’t really do it justice, but I don’t want to give anything away . It’s a good ghost story, with the gore and blood splatter being kept to a minimum, which works here. There are a few things going on at once, but it all fits together nicely. What I really enjoyed was the twist ending which does have some foreshadowing earlier on . The story is an engrossing one, and the main characters, Chen and Som, are easy to relate to . COMING SOON also takes a shot at the rigid censorship within the Thai movie industry while also giving a nod to independent filmmaking . Unfortunately, this film has yet to be released on DVD with English subtitles, unless of course you have an all-region player . If you’re interested in watching COMING SOON, you can check it out on asian-horror-movies.com. The movie was translated and subtitled by someone associated with the Web site.
Thailand’s movie industry has some very tight censorship rules . As for the movies I’ve seen from Thailand, they all have a minimal amount of gore, but the scares come from the atmosphere and the writing . All three of these movies have their faults, but the writing and acting make them very engrossing films. A horror movie doesn’t have to be full of gore, blood or torture to be a good one . I love torture porn—hell, I’m a total gorehound. Sometimes, though, a creepy and suspenseful story will hold my interest and these movies definitely deliver on the creepy and suspenseful. You can catch them for free on the web at http://asian-horror-movies.com/.
© Copyright 2010 by Colleen Wanglund