Sydney International Film Festival has become my only outlet to see Thai film in cinema. Last year the only film I saw from the Festival was Syndrome and a Century. It certainly is a homesick therapy. This year I have the same level of excitement to see The Unseeable (เป็นชู้กับผี) but in depth of nostalgia.
It sets in 1930’s, a pregnant rural girl, Nualjan, is in search for her missing husband in Bangkok. She ends up staying in a spooky mansion, owned by a mysterious woman, Ranjual. Then it comes to the series of spine-chilling scenes with strange characters: a man digging a hole, a girl playing hide-and-seek, a hand snatching food in the garden and so on.
This is simply a compilation of short ghost stories like Ju-on or Three. What makes this film different from others is the structure that wraps up all the sub plots in the end which goes back to the beginning. It implies that those frightening events will never end and they will be in suffering over and over again until the truth is reconciled. The circle of life and death and the consciousness of existence, are quite rare in these Asian genre, especially Thai cinema although they are pretty much in the core of Buddhist philosophy.
Moreover the Director, Wisit Sasanatiang, is such a master of nostalgia. His production is full of rich Thai references. He has got the same skills as Quentin Taruntino, the ability to recall, reuse and reinvent dated styles and create them their own. The unique palette which strongly based on Thai (Siamese) roots gives him such the recognition internationally. What he particularly uses in this film is a tribute to the master of Thai illustrations, Hem Vajakorn both in story and visual production.
Just the house in the set is worth all seeing this movie. I am such a sucker for this 1900’s East-West architecture. I even dreamt I lived in one. Now I am not sure I could do so after I have seen this film.
Recently, BRW magazine announced 50 Australian’s Top Entertainers. The only none-performer in the top ten are James Wan and Leigh Whannell, the Creators of Saw series. The couple won the Hollywood lotto when they got the green light from the studio to finance the film. They make millions of dollars by churning the sequels every year. Saw IV is about to be released this year. I had to see the original on DVD with curiosity.
The story starts with a hi-concept, two men (Cary Elwes and Leigh Whannell) wake up to find out that they are chained in a filthy bathroom. They don’t know where they are, how or why they got there. They have to play death games of the mastermind, Jigsaw (Tobin Bell). While they are trying to get free, a cop (Danny Glover) is relentlessly trying to catch him. And of course, it ends up with ultra-violent climax and now predictable anti-climax.
There are the keys of this franchise’s success. Hollywood is always looking for new horrors but it has not been fresh lately. Jason’s Friday 13th cannot be resurrected any more. They’ve already remade Texas Chainsaw massacre. They’ve borrowed Japanese’s The Ring and The Grudge with sequels. George Romero’s made a come back with another zombie flick. Their last original horror as far as I can recall was Final Destination dated in 2000 and Hostel in 2005.
Saw fills the gap with the evil puppet master. Jigsaw is psycho, intelligent and unbeatable. It’s the combination of Hannibal Lecter, Jason and Se7en’s John Doe. Despite of many holes in the scripts and over-the-top acting of Cary Elwes and Denny Glover, it has the elements that this genre gives, the cinematography, the editing and unnecessary blood scenes.
An Aussie home-grown horror has cracked the international market with Wolf Creek in 2005 but it didn’t have the momentum push and Hollywood backup like Saw. They all are in the new blood of horror filmmakers group called the Splat Pack. Watch out for more blood shed and they make money.