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FilmsAsia: Asian film reviews
Soh Yun-Huei
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   Bangkok Haunted  


Bangkok Haunted

Reviewed by Soh Yun-Huei

Directors: Oxide Pang, Pisut Praesangeam
Writing Credits: Pisut Praesangeam
Cast: Pimsiree Pimsee, Pramote Seangsom, Dawan Singha-Wee, Kalyanut Sriboonrueng, Pete Thong-Jeur
Genre: Horror
Country: Thailand
Language: Thai
Year Released: 2001
Runtime: 130 min
Rating: * * (out of four stars)

Bangkok Haunted is yet another Asian horror flick, a trend that seems to have been triggered from The Ring, and never really abating since then (as you read this, Dark Water, another Japanese horror film, is starting its run in Singapore). Unfortunately, much like many other Asian horror movies, Bangkok Haunted is decidedly unimpressive – hackneyed plots, an unhealthy obsession with the gory, and yet a decided lack of truly chilling or horrifying moments. Although the final denouement that ties the three stories together is rather inspired, the rest of the film is limp and drawn out (a mind-numbing 130 minutes), and not really worth anyone’s time in a cinema – even for horror fans.

Directed by Oxide Pang (Bangkok Dangerous) Pisuth Praesaeng-lam, Bangkok Haunted consists of three stories recounted by three women seated in a pub (readers of trashy Chinese novels would find this format similar to [loosely translated] Late Night Discussions of Four People). The first tale recounts the story of a Thai dancer in the early 1900’s, whose half brother has fallen in love with her, but her affections lie elsewhere. Spurned, the half-brother seeks vengeance on the girl, and subsequently her spirit is trapped in an ornate drum. When a woman rediscovers the drum in modern times, the spirit of the dancer starts to stir again.

The second story is about a love potion, harvested through decidedly unorthodox methods, that not only attracts the opposite sex, but also firmly ensnares his heart to the owner of the potion. A woman chances upon the potion, but upon using it finds that the consequences of her action are far more severe than she expected. In the last tale, a woman is found to have hung herself at the pier, but a policeman is intrigued by the little pieces of evidence that seem to suggest that the woman was murdered. He goes on a search to uncover the truth, but is met by dead ends at every turn. The woman’s spirit seems to want to help, but her exact intentions are veiled till the last moment.

All three tales are relatively interesting, and it cannot be denied that there is a certain visual style that the directors employ that makes some parts of the film good to look at. However, the plots are mediocre and easily predictable, and the "twist" endings aren’t that much of a surprise, drastically reducing the impact of the film. What’s worse, something seems to have been lost in the (somewhat shoddy) translation, as certain portions of the tales are well nigh incomprehensible, particularly the third story. Bangkok Haunted also has a predisposition to display gore, and there are many needless scenes of goriness that do not add to the atmosphere, but simply makes one feel repulsed – several "key scenes" include two graphic vomiting sequences, and one sustained, slow pan of an autopsy. These scenes are horrible, but unfortunately aren’t horrifying.

One of the other saving graces of the film is the final twist, and admittedly, it was a creative and rather unexpected one, but one has to trudge through 125 minutes of very Grade-B material before arriving at this one creative spark. And unfortunately, this spark isn’t enough to revive the film or raise it above mediocrity, as I had lost interest in what was occurring onscreen long before that.

Final Word: Thrill and chill seekers ought to look elsewhere for their fix.