Saturday, April 11, 2009

Review: Buppha Rahtree 3.1: Rahtree Reborn

  • Directed by Yuthlert Sippapak
  • Starring Chermarn Boonyasak, Mario Maurer, Nattawan Saksiri
  • Released in Thai cinemas on April 9, 2009
  • Rating: 2/5

Rahtree is rebooted. Gone is the meek but angry ghost of a girl who was spurned and died from complications of an abortion. All that's left is a lonely young woman, still played by "Ploy" Chermarn Boonyasak from the first two movies in 2003 and 2005.

But there's a confusing complication -- another Buppha Rahtree -- a bullied little schoolgirl (Nattawan Saksiri) who claims she's the reincarnation of Buppha Rahtree. She's the stepdaughter of an abusive barber (Santisuk Promsiri). Weary of being beaten, she stabs dad with a pair of scissor and runs away with his straight razor. She turns up at Buppha's apartment building, has her jaw ripped off in a strange encounter with a man in a bathroom and sets about terrorizing the tenement. She lures people in, looking like an innocent girl bouncing a pingpong ball. Then she takes the form of a dead-eyed, gore-covered, jawless little hair ghost. Other times she's the grown up Buppha played by Ploy. It's hard to tell what's really going on.

What is clear is that director "Tom" Yuthlert Sippapak is seeking to reset his Buppha Rahtree franchise and tell the story in smaller increments, as signaled by the title, Buppha Rahtree 3.1: Rahtree Reborn (บุปผาราตรี 3.1).

Characters from the first two films have been swept away. Gone is landlady Sister See. She's been replaced by Sister Five, who's turned one floor of the apartment building into an illegal casino.

Also missing in action is Buppha's old boyfriend, Ake, whose spirit is finally at rest. Replacing him is Rung (Mario Maurer), a graphic novelist who sees dead people like Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense. Buppha played an important role in his childhood, and no she wasn't his long-lost sister -- that was Love of Siam.

At least one character from the earlier two movies has returned -- the comical "ghostbuster" Master Kong (Somlek Sakdikul), who is running for governor of Bangkok on a platform that he should be elected because he isn't a politician. His movie poster from 2005's Rahtree Returns is a campaign flier, and he's striking the same fierce pose that former massage-parlor tycoon Chuwit Kamolvisit used in billboards for his most recent gubernatorial bid. Kong is eventually enlisted by Sister Five to try and banish the demonic little girl ghost.

Also, Yuthlert's trademark blending of comedy and horror is still present, and the director brings in a troupe of familiar cafe comedians and a pair of cross-eyed character actresses to fill time as comic relief.

There are also cameos from actor-musician Pe Arak Amornsuksiri and one of his Rak/Sam/Sao leading ladies, Koy Ratchawin Wongwiriya. They summon a ghost in a oujia session.

The timeline of the narrative jumps so often and so erratically, it's difficult to follow.

And at one point, one of the comedians opens a door and a black title card comes up to say that the supposed carnage he's seen is "censored".

I am unsure whether that's for real or it's just Yuthlert joking around.

Also, with an ending that is just as puzzlingly abrupt as Tony Jaa's Ong-Bak 2, Yuthlert promises there will be a Buppha Rahtree 3.2: Rahtree's Revenge, continuing the story in yet another tiny increment.

Maybe that story and this one will gel for something I can really get behind, like Yuthlert's first Buppha Rahtree. But Buppha Rahtree 3.1: Rahtree Reborn is such a disappointingly confusing mess, I can't be certain what it is I saw, despite the fact that I've just written words about it.

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1 comment:

  1. Tom was just joking around with the "censored" part. The title is written in Thai as "เซ็นเ่ซ่อ" where it should be transliterated as "เซ็นเซอร์". "เซ่อ" in Thai means stupid. So I guess the pun is his comment on Thai censorship board.


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