Thursday, February 14, 2008

Revisiting The House

One film I didn't take the opportunity to see last year was The House, or Ban Pee Sing, a graphically disturbing horror thriller directed by Monthon Arayangkoon for RS Film. I'm not sure why I dismissed it at the time.

After bursting onto the scene in 2004 with the Thai kaiju drama Garuda, Monthon then made 2006's The Victim, a twisty thriller that revisited some "true crime" murder scenes around Bangkok. I didn't see that either, but I'll be darned if it hasn't been issued on English-subtitled DVD by Tartan Asian Extreme. Garuda is out on English-friendly DVD, too.

With The House, Monthon again visits the realm of true crime. Here is the official synopsis (via 24fps):

Inspired by a true story of three horrible murders that happen to three women in different times. The film tells the story of Chalinee, a girl who becomes obsessed at finding the truth behind the past cruel murders. Finally, it leads her to a house where the crimes started. Something haunts the house and it will prove to be the most most terrible experience of her life.

Nang Nak's Intira Jaroenpura, who also portrayed an archery-skilled warrior princess in last year's Naresun II, stars as the reporter Chalinee. Others in the cast are Chatcha Rujinanon, Chamanun Wonwinwate, Komsun Nuntajit and Nuttawat Plengsiriwat. Writer-director Kongdej Jaturanrasamee is featured in a small role.

It was the No. 1 film the first weekend of its release on September 6, 2007, according to Box Office Mojo, but dropped out of the Top 5 after two weeks. The wildly successful rom-com The Bedside Detective (which I also didn't bother seeing) was released at the same time and held the top spot during those two weeks.

Now, months later, it's The House that is being remembered by at least two Thai film critics. One is Jit Phokaew, an eclectic cinephile who writes Limitless Cinema in Broken English. He put The House at No. 1 on his list of Top 10 Favorite Thai Films for 2007 for Senses of Cinema.

Jit notes that another Thai critic, Manotham Teamtheabrat, also chose The House as his favorite Thai film of 2007. In a recent post, Jit says:

The House might not be a good film, but I love it a lot because of many reasons. I was drawn to the film since the beginning, when a character poses a question, “Why do some women hurt other women?” The film seems not to answer this question or pay real attention to it. But this question seems to hint since the beginning that The Hou8se might be my kind of film – [a] film about hatred, unreasonable hatred. Why do we hurt other people without reasons? That’s the question I would like to see elaborated in other Thai films, instead of just preaching that we should love other people. That kind of thing doesn’t need to be taught in films. We should know it already.

I don’t fully understand The House. The House also seems to question why some family members who love each other so much turn to kill each other later. I’m not sure if The House provides some definite answers to this question. But it doesn’t have to answer. I already love this film with all my heart just because it seems to be interested in this question.

I guess this teaches me to be dismissive of certain genres, especially if they are Thai films, because how they are promoted and how they actually turn out to be are often wildly different.


  1. Yes, I think many good films got bad trailers. Filmsick (my Thai friend) said that he likes IN COUNTRY AND MELODY (2007, Note Chern-yim) a lot. But I didn’t choose to go to see this film because of that scatological trailer. If the trailer of this film did not have that scatological scene, I might have gone to see it already.

  2. I didn't go see In Country and Melody for the same reason - that sick trailer, with the men in the hot tub, blowing the turd around.

    The best worst example of an inaccurate trailer was Ai-Fak: It made it seem like a romantic comedy, when in fact it was a pretty dark drama, with some very pertinent social commentary.

  3. And Love Of Siam - the trailer completely excised the gay storyline, using juxtaposition of clips to suggest that all the crushes in the film were heterosexual.

  4. Love of Siam is another good example, though it was intentional.

    Most of the time, though, I think the inaccurate trailers are just carelessness or incompetence.

  5. I'm not sure if it's carelessness. A film is expensive to make, and trailers are promotional tools, so I presume that the trailers are designed to appeal to the required demographic, regardless of the actual film style/content.

    For example, there was an article in The Guardian recently about Sweeney Todd - the trailer does not include anyone singing, thus disguising the fact that it's a muisical film. This has led to some audience walkouts from surprised people who don't like musicals.

    But if the trailer had been more representative, fewer people would have been attracted to the film; likewise, Love Of Siam.

  6. Yes, perhaps I am underestimating the competence levels of the studios - even Phranakorn.

    I had read that about Sweeney. There was a similar audience reaction to Love of Siam, with some audience members angry that they had been lured into a "gay" film. It was No. 1 for about one week, dropped to No. 2 for the second week, and after about a month, was gone from most cinemas.

    The film has since gained a huge, loyal following in the gay community, once word of mouth got around about the nature of the film.

    I wonder if the Love of Siam would have performed better during its initial run if Sahamongkol had been more truthful about the film? Or how about if the posters had featured something more along the lines of family portrait that would have included more of the ensemble cast - Tong's parents and "sister" - rather than focusing solely on the teenagers? The girls had very small roles compared to Sinjai Plengpanich or Ploy Boonyasak.

  7. I wonder what the studio would consider successful or unsuccessful. Yes, it was gone from cinemas after a month, but the same applies to most films. In its first week, all screenings were sold out.

    Putting Tong's parents and sister on the poster would have been more representative of the film (and of the film's strengths) but might not appeal to a teenage audience. Presumably teenagers are more interested in a film if the poster features four teenagers.

  8. In the early weeks of The Love of Siam's initial run, Sahamongkol wasn't happy with the numbers. They were good, but they wanted to see more.

    But with the film's critical success, the loyal following and recognition by the industry, I would guess they are all pretty happy about it now.

    There are going to be some heartbroken gay farangs when the film is released on DVD without English subtitles. It'll be interesting to follow these developments in the coming months, as well as to see what versions of the film will be put on DVD, marketed overseas, etc.

  9. I'll be included in that group, but I'm more heartbroken by the film's unhappy ending than by the lack of English DVD subtitles.

  10. Re: Love Of Siam DVD, the theatrical version is available now (packaged with a notepad reproducing the film's poster design), and apparently B2S CentralWorld is taking reservations for the extended version.


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