Sunday, January 1, 2006

Review: Ghost Variety (Phee Chalui)

  • Directed by Adirek "Uncle" Watleela
  • Starring Petchtai Wongkamlao, Pitchanart Sakakorn, Channarong Khuntee-tao, Somlek Sakdikul, Chaleumpol Tikumpornteerawong
  • Released in Thai cinemas on December 29, 2006
Ghost Variety is a historic film for the Thai film industry. But not because it's a great film necessarily, but because it features appearances by just about every major Thai director and producer, and it pokes a lot of fun at the Thai film industry.

More on that later.

This, the last Thai film released in 2005, stars Mum Jokmok (Petchtai Wongkamlao), in his fourth major film role of the year -- a year that saw him starring in the Ong-Bak followup Tom Yum Goong, his dramatic turn in Midnight, My Love, his second outing as writer-director in Yam Yasothon and now Ghost Variety. He did a couple of walk-ons (for a case of beer) in Holy Man and Dumber Heroes as well.

The opening is great, with Mum in rural Thailand, attending an outdoor screening of an old Thai horror film, probably sometime in the 1960s in a small northeastern Thailand village. Walking home with his young son, they encounter just about every Thai ghost that's ever been in books, comics or on film, including the headless ghost and the 3-baht ghost, or pauper ghost. There's even gambling ghosts, "and that can't be good," says Mum.

I wanted more. More I say. More! But alas, it's only a dream. Mum wakes up and he's in an apartment, typing away on a script. Movie posters adorn the wall. There's an 8 x 10 glossy of Mum in a tux, clutching a Suphannahongsa award (the Thai Oscar) in one hand and an Oscar Oscar -- an Academy Award -- in the other hand. That's a keeper. More! More I say. Make it a reality!

But alas, it's only a dream. And Mum awakes in a scummy flat. He's Tom, a struggling filmmaker. And when he awakes, he thinks he's in a bad dream, and he commences to trying to slap himself out of the nightmare that is his life in reality. A mean landlady (Mum's hilarious sister Waew) throws some water on him and reminds him he has to pay his rent.

Tom hits the bricks, looking to sell his script. Here's where all the Thai filmmakers start to come in. He visits Prachya Pinkaew. "Is it an action film?" Prachya asks. "I can make an action film," the Ong-Bak director says eagerly.

Another producer wonders if it's a comedy.

Executive producer Somsak Techratanaprasert tells Tom "we need to raise the quality of our films in order to get the government to pay attention."


Tom visits others -- the credits at the end are a who's who in Thai film -- Piak Poster, Cherd Songsri, Yuthlert Sippapak (who is seen making Buppa Rahtree 3), Visute Poolvoralaks, Jira Maligool -- the list goes on and on.

Jira's own film is poked fun of here. At one point, Tom is leaving a pawn shop after selling his camera. A guy pushing a bicycle with a basket full of props and awards is going in. "Ah, The Tin Mine," Tom says, shaking his head.

It's said by one of the producers, "What do want to do? Make a film that nobody will see but will win lots of awards, or make a film that everyone will see and will make a ton of money?"


Uncle knows. The producer of Bang Rajan, Bangkok Dangerous and many more huge Thai films, he's directed this film for Sahamongkol. His own Film Bangkok production house has virtually closed after his last few films tanked. But over his years and years of working in the Thai film business, he's built up a lot of goodwill with his fellow filmmakers, and is apparently owed a ton of favors.

In this, Uncle's first directoral effort in a long time, his friends are only too happy to be among the parade of producers and directors who Tom either visits, or ends up sitting next to while waiting to be interviewed by the country's sleaziest, lowest-budget producer, portrayed by Somlek Sakdikul, who's probably best known for his role as a sleazy music producer in Monrak Transistor.

Tom is interviewed in the men's room while Somlek is sitting on the can. Tom is in the next stall. Somlek goes to wipe. Damn! No paper. Tom has some, and offers to wipe the producer's butt!

Anyway, his script isn't good enough. Tom is desperate. His actor friend Tik (Channarong Khuntee-tao) is desperate. Tom only wants to direct a big-budget movie. But they have to eat. And this guy who produces a TV show keeps calling. And at just right time, the TV producer shows up.

The TV gig is for a new show called "Ghost Variety", a kind of hybrid of the comedy-variety-game shows that are all over Thai TV and the reality series that are popular as well. Tom is to lead a crew while they search for ghosts in haunted places, sort of like Scooby Doo without the dog, Shaggy or Scooby Snacks.

Instead, there's cute model-actress Pitchanart Sakakorn as a production assistant, who Tom has a thing for, naturally. The curly-haired Tik "The Star" will be a co-presenter along with a Thai rock star, "The Next" (Boriboon Chanroueng), who's doing the TV gig to gain more fame.

Rounding out the crew is a very effeminate, heavy set young gay man (Chaleumpol Tikumpornteerawong - Jack, the big bully from Fan Chan, in an unfortunate choice of roles). He can do better than this.

The movie is funny for about the first hour or so, but once it falls into the routine of the cast being chased by some weird, towering CGI ghosts (the "long-legged ghosts" of a northern Thailand village) -- with lots of running around and screaming -- the fun wears off.

There is a funny twist at the end, though, where a lot of the inexplicability is explained.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

1 comment:

  1. it's to cool movie !!!!!! ahhhhh Petchtai Wongkamlao is too hilarous !!!!


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