Probably Not What You Expect (...but is that "good" or "bad"
Ace-of-Stars | Honolulu, Hawaii | 07/01/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
First things first.... The front of the package of this DVD is emblazoned with the following eye-grabbing proclamation:
''FROM OXIDE AND DANNY PANG (DIRECTORS OF "THE EYE")''
Before you start getting wet & excited over that blurb, however, please allow me to facilitate your somewhat painful crash back to earth. This movie is comprised of THREE INDEPENDENT VIGNETTES (which is expressed clearly in the film's original Thai-language title, ''Pee Sahm Baht'' -- I'll explain very shortly). The first and second segments of the film were directed by Pisuth Praesaengaim, who also served in the capacity of ''writer'' and ''producer.'' The third/last installment is not even directed by the ''Brothers,'' in the strict sense -- it is directed solely by OXIDE Pang, independent of his brother Danny.
I utterly HATE when DVD marketers act in such a deliberately disingenuous and deceptive manner, especially with many of the ''Asian'' titles -- they're assuming, I suppose, that everybody's ignorant and that nobody's going to call them out on their bull droppings. Al Franken has a term for it: he refers to words or statements that are ''technically'' the truth but which hide or cover over certain other pertinent bits of information so as not to tell the ''whole'' story as ''Weasel Words'' -- but there are OTHER statements, such as the one made on the cover of this DVD case, which contain ''SOME'' truth but which have been manipulated for the sole and deliberate purpose of misleading or deceiving -- these Franken refers to as ''sleasels'' ('sleazy weasels'). But I have to admit, though, that you all get ''cooler'' looking cover art for the ''Region-1'' DVD than those of us who acquired our DVDs of this title from the Asian market.
The original Thai title, translated into English, is ''THREE BAHT GHOST.'' The average Thai citizen would automatically understand the reference. At one time in their history a ''baht'' (Thailand's basic monetary unit) could buy a comic book of whatever genre the reader was interested in -- romance/drama themes tend to be quite popular in places like Thailand, Philippines and Singapore, but ''ghost story'' comics were also quite popular in Thailand (much like our own ''House of Mystery,'' ''The Witching Hour'' or the old ''E.C.'' comics were to ''Baby Boomers''), and since ''one baht'' could buy the reader a ghost story comic book, such a publication became known as a ''One Baht Ghost.'' So, naturally, ''3'' ghost stories would together cost ''three baht,'' hence the ''cultural reference'' in the movie's original language title.
It has come to my attention that the marketers of this ''Region-1'' DVD (which is still on ''pre-order'' status at the time of this writing) have apparently insisted on continuing to mislead their target American & Canadian audiences by following the lead of the Asian DVD marketers and supplying UNAPOLOGETICALLY INCORRECT English translations of the vignettes' original language titles. So, for those of you who hate having your intelligence insulted by ''translators'' who deliberately 'MIS-translate' & 'reword' important titles and key dialogue in Asian movies, for you I present the CORRECT Thai-to-English vignette titles (all others who enjoy swimming in blissful ignorance, please disregard):
* The ''first'' installment's title, correctly translated into English, is ''Arm of the Dancer''
* The ''second'' installment is entitled ''Female-Corpse Oil''
* The last installment is called ''Vengeance''
The three chapters are tied together by three female friends who are spending the closing hours in a cafe, each of them entertaining the others with a ghost story she's chosen to share. The stories are of different styles and of different intensities -- none of which overtly or overly terrifying; catering, of course, to ''Asian'' story styles & sensibilities. (Recall, as I explained in my ''So You'd Like To...'' guide entitled ''FIND OUT WHAT SPOOKS ASIANS!'' that Asian stories and movies involving ghosts play mostly for tension & ''creepiness'' rather than shock & fright.)
The first story tells its tale in a very ''traditional'' style, which only makes sense since about half of it plays out as flashbacks. Because of its subdued tone and ''sad story,'' however, it is almost universally panned as the weakest and least acclaimed of the three vignettes -- yet, it is for these very same reasons that make this installment of the movie my personal favorite of the three. The story recounts the history of a specially crafted drum and tries to determine why the spirit of a dead woman remains inseparably connected to it.
Story number two involves a horny but unfulfilled single woman who learns of an oily substance which, when used on her desired conquest, will transform even the most upstanding & chaste of men into hyper-enegetic lovemaking machines who'll have eyes only for her. But it would seem its use sometimes comes with some very unpleasant side-effects.
The last segment, which most viewers favor, involves a young woman whose body was found hanging from what would appear to be a suicide. But a young detective is not so convinced -- the evidence for suicide just isn't there, and it appears she was the victim of murder. And it would seem that every man she's ever been involved with has mistreated her in some fashion, and since she wasn't exactly pristine as fresh-fallen snow herself, any one of them could have had a motive. In his search for the truth behind her death, the detective seems to be getting a little assistance from the ghost of the dead woman. But is it ''justice'' the dead girl wants? -- Or ''vengeance''?
The film's final moments with the storytelling girlfriends is also a very nice touch -- totally unexpected, catching me completely off-guard.
Unfortunately, most people are not going to be able to relate to this film -- if not for expecting something as powerful as ''The Eye'' (because of that lying blurb on the package cover), then they'll be trying to hold it up to the unrealistic standards of films like ''Juon'' or ''Ring,'' and they will be severely disappointed for doing so. This film is what it is, and should be allowed to work on its OWN level, and not 'projected' onto. Even so, it's not exactly a ''stand out'' film: It "IS" from Thailand, after all -- a country not exactly notable for producing international hits, though they do seem to be getting much better at the game (you'll be hearing about a movie called ''SHUTTER'' soon enough, trust me).
But if you're up for something that's a bit more heavy on the 'atmospheric' and 'moody,' and/or if you want to look at the ghost-story genre from one of the lesser-focused-on Asian countries, then it just might be worth your while. Otherwise, tread lightly -- try renting it first, if you can, and give it at least two good viewings before forming a opinion."
Like 'The Eye', Bangkok Haunted proves that Thai Cinema has
Orson99 | Oak Park, IL USA | 07/01/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"If you're a fan of Asian horror then no doubt you have heard of the Pang Brothers. If you haven't then get this DVD because they are filmmakers you should know. What I loved about Bangkok Haunted is the subtle use of Macabre combined with folklore type story telling. The first two tales are particularly wicked. The film is very stylish and nicely photographed. Not to mention the three main actresses are really gorgeous and yes, convincing. I am very pleased to see that this film is being treated very well on DVD here in the US. It deserves it. Any fan of Asian Horror (or Horror films in general) should add this to their collection."
Totally visceral horror from the director of THE EYE
Flickhead | Los Angeles, CA United States | 07/01/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I just received a screener of the Panik House DVD for this film, and the packaging is very impressive! I'm happy to report that the movie and the extras are every bit as impressive as well. This is an omnibus film co-directed by Oxide Pang, who along with brother Danny, directed THE EYE and BANGKOK DANGEROUS. There are three stories (told by three young women in a Bangkok Cafe) of horror and the supernatural shot in three distinctly different styles, while each fitting together quite nicely in the end. All of the stories have shocking moments of violence, but are never presented in an exploitive way, as thought the violence on screen is never superfluous and always serves to push the story forward. The first story, "Legend of the Drum" is a tale of murder a nd possession, and according to the "Making Of" featurette, the filming of this segment involved actual unexplainable circumstances, reminiscent of recently disclosed events on the sets of the original Exorcist and Wes Craven's Serpent And The Rainbow. The costume design is incredibly creepy. The second tale, "Black Magic Woman" involves an aphrodisiac, zombified prostitutes, and crazed axe-wielding killer, and may have involved actual cadavers. The third entry, directed by Oxide Pang, "Revenge" is the real payoff, and has a very original story structure and the best multi-level police procedural drama this side of CSI. Pete Thong-jeur gives a realistic and believable performance as a young detective convinced that a possible suicide is a case of murder, and the victim's spirit visits him throughout the investigation with ghastly consequence. The wrap-up is among the most original I've ever seen. A prior reviewer must have seen an edited version of this film, as his review incorrectly indicates that nothing ties the stories together, when in fact the thread common to all three stories is in itself a very original twist. I'm going to run out and buy anything else with Oxide's name on it after this. The disc has a ton of extras. In addition to the documentary, there are trailers, a Pang Brothers bio written by Psychotronic Video Guide's Art Black (who also wrote the Thai Cinema Essay) and a lengthy still gallery. Oh yeah, it comes with a sticker, too. Great film, great disc.
One thirds good.
PolarisDiB | Southwest, USA | 03/04/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"We have a very strong start as we open upon a story that is sort of like an Asian phantom of the Opera with incest. A young girl and her brother live happily in a small village until one day traveling visitors bring a man the girl starts to fall in love with. Her jealous brother, with a deformed face he always hides, decides to wreak havoc, and the ghost of the young girl gets endowed into a drum that travels the country haunting whoever happens to be close by.
Tthhhheeeeennnn the movie reveals that it's just a story being told, and that three young Thai women at a restaurant are telling each other ghost stories. The thing about these types of narratives is that they fundamentally ruin the point of the stories in the first place. Horror is made to terrify, right? So how can we appropriately fear for characters' lives and souls when we know they're fake? Even beyond the level of fakenss inherent in any medium, we now are twice removed from the characters' psyches: once because we're actually watching a television screen, and twice because we're watching characters tell stories about characters that don't exist diagetically.
Worse, the next two stories turn out to have that wonderful flavor of, "Huh, I've heard variants of this before." Yep, suddenly we move away from the interesting story (which also, interestingly, had much better dialog, direction, cinematography, and just about everything) that held our attentions for 40 minutes, and then we follow two other stories for another hour and a half that are, when you break it down, merely urban legends.
Gee, and I was so enjoying the beginning.
To be fair, the third story isn't THAT bad, and since it's a mystery it's a little nice to follow. But the second story is just soo boring! It's very disappointing to be enjoying yourself and then have the director say, "Okay, so, we're done with that, now to move on!"
Two things you should never do in a horror movie because it's no longer fresh and now it becomes slightly insulting: never have it end up being just a dream, and never have it end up being just a story.