Film review: Phobia

January 2nd, 2011

An easy on the eyes and mind horror anthology from four Thai film-makers, Phobia never truly scares, but there are some fun jumps along the somewhat predictable way in these thinly-linked stories.

Thongkongtoon kicks off with the segment Happiness. A young girl is recovering from a broken leg in her flat, received when the taxi she was in collided with a pedestrian. Hiding from her landlady because her rent is in arrears her only form of communication with the outside world is her internet and mobile phone. When the internet packs up she begins to receive text messages from a complete stranger. Bored, she starts up a conversation, and after a series of stranger and stranger exchanges she wishes she listened to that revised and updated nugget of parental wisdom: never text strangers. Especially if they’re dead… This segment has no dialogue whatsoever, just the irritating buzz of the mobile as messages come in, off-set by the steady build-up of a claustrophobically threatening atmosphere as the ghost decides he wants to meet up in the flesh. Thongkongtoon just manages to keep the single interior setting this side of tedious, but the inevitable pay-off did send a little shiver down my spine.

Tit for Tat, directed by Purikitpanya, might be a thirty minute extended pop-video, jam-packed with crazy cuts, colouring and frenetic nu metal riffs and beats. A classic story of bullying, what makes this a little different is the victim’s determination for revenge through black-magic, or something ritually similar. The gang members are dispatched in a series of enjoyable and gory set-pieces, and the threat of those on the other-side and what might lay in wait for us there is eerily depicted, albeit in rather unfortunate CGI. Of interest to some will be the modern echoes of M.R. James’ Casting the Runes and Sam Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell fun-fest.

Pisanthanakun’s (one-half of the team behind Shutter) In The Middle centres around four friends rafting and camping in the jungle. Needless to say things go awry when they capsize and end up in the water. A self-referential humour that nods way too obviously towards feature films such as The Others and The Sixth Sense just about saves the proceedings from becoming too predictable and too sedentary, as the story and atmosphere is neither scary nor ground-breaking, just a little goofy.

The Last Fright, directed by Wongpoom (the second of the Shutter duo), is about an air stewardess who is asked to take the body of a recently deceased princess back to her homeland. On her own in the plane, the pilots locked away in the cockpit, she finds herself at the centre of a mid-air revenge haunting as the plane is rocked by heavy turbulence. Despite a clever storyline that comes full-circle with the details of the link between the stewardess and the princess steadily unfolding, our sympathies swaying back and forth with each reveal, it’s resolution is a (and here’s that word again) predictable dead-end.

Phobia, 2009

Directed by Banjong Pisanthanakun / Paween Purikitpanya / Yongyoot Thongkongtoon / Parkpoom Wongpoom

Reviewed by Mathew F. Riley

Entry Filed under: Film Reviews

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