Thursday, August 6, 2009

Review: Death Happens (6:66 Tai Mai Dai Tai)

  • Directed by Takeaw Ruengratana
  • Starring Susira Angelina Nanna, Yodchai Meksuwan, Jason Young, Sakda Kaewbuadee
  • Released in Thai cinemas on July 30, 2009
  • Rating: 2/5

A couple or three decent gore-worthy moments and a satisfying twist ending make 6:66 Tai Mai Dai Tai worth a look, if only just barely. Mostly though, 6:66 Tai Mai Dai Tai (6:66 ตายไม่ได้ตาย, literally 6:66 Die Not Die) is aggravating because it frequently doesn't make any sense.

With the English title Death Happens, the horror thriller marks a departure from the Teng Nong/Nong Teng comedies for director Takeaw Ruengratana, writer Punlop Sinjaroen and production house Work Point Entertainment. It's also a bit odd for Thai horror in that it's rooted in Christian, rather than Buddhist mythology, with God invoked as the ultimate decider of when someone dies, and the 6:66 in the title referencing the mark of the beast or Satan.

Susira Angelina Nanna stars as Dao, an intrepid tomboyish crime reporter for a Bangkok newspaper. She's been sent on a dangerous assignment, to photograph the dealings of a shady lawyer. But the photo session turns into a shooting, with the lawyer dead and the gunman (Apichatpong Weerasethakul regular Sakda Kaewbuadee, paying the bills) hearing the camera shutter, pointing his pistol at Dao and firing. The shot glances off her chunky wristwatch, and she lives.

Guess what time her watch stopped on? You'll know long before she does. It takes her a long frustrating hour to finally look at the watch and start to piece together the puzzle of what's happened. But by then it's too late.

See, at the very same time as the shooting, Dao's eccentric father (Yodchai Meksuwan) shot himself in the head while his home was on fire.

Dao, still shaken from almost being fatally shot, receives the news of her father's death while she's driving her big SUV. She stops in the middle of the road and causes a motorcyclist to wreck. Then, apparently blind with grief, she runs down a pedestrian for no apparent reason and nothing ever comes of it. Is that the image the maker of that shiny four-wheel-drive wants to have? Apparently so, since they're the sponsor of this movie. Consequently, Dao spends more time listlessly driving around in her truck than anything else.

Finally, she makes it to the hospital, and takes up two parking spaces with her giant vehicle. In the morgue, she's identifying the body when dear old dad suddenly comes alive! Of course, he's not all there, since he blew out part of his brains. But for Dao, who has issues with her father -- hasn't seen him for 15 years and doesn't call him dad -- it's traumatising, and it's about to get worse.

Now, no one is dying. Another guy in the hospital has his forehead sliding off, and he's up and walking around, scaring the bejesus out of Dao. And a pregnant woman is in agony after her baby descended the birth canal, and then went right back in. Umm, but did the mother die?

Dao, her bespectacled geek co-worker Geng and a stone-faced cop named Wut (Jason Young) are searching for answers. And when the answers aren't forthcoming, at least Wut is there for Dao to give an awkward hug.

How is Dao and her father connected to all this? What's that headless shadow following her around? What does that mean-looking nurse have to do with anything? Does Susie Susira have other tattoos besides the one on the small of her back and the other on her abdomen?

Oh, and what time is it?

The questions will likely keep you up at night, sitting on the edge of your bed, mumbling in a low voice that can't possibly be yours.

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