- Directed by Chartchai Ketknust, Manus Worrasingha, Tanwarin Sukkhapisit and Poj Arnon
- Starring Mai Charoenpura, Akara Amarttayakul, Supaksorn Chaimongkol, Sattawat Sethakorn
- Released in Thai cinemas on January 28, 2010; rated 18+
- Wise Kwai's rating: 4/5
There is an exploitive Grindhouse feel to the portmanteau horror Tai Hong (ตายโหง, Die a Violent Death, also Still), four short stories that are ripped bleeding from Thailand's mass-market daily newspapers -- the ones that infamously splash gruesome pictures of motorcycle wrecks on their front pages.
The segments deal with a fire in a nightclub on New Year's Eve, death in jail, a dead body in an apartment building's water tank and a haunted motel room.
Released by Phranakorn Film and put together by producer-director Poj Arnon, the results are grittier than the successful recent horror anthologies of other Thai studios -- GTH with its Phobia (Phrang) series and Sahamongkol's Haunted Universities (Maha'lai Sayong Kwan).
Joining Poj in his fun are three indie filmmakers, Chartchai Ketknust, Manus Worrasingha and Tanwarin Sukkhapisit.
Chartchai handles the first segment, Flame, which controversially addresses the blaze at Santika, a Bangkok nightclub where 66 people died as the result of a fire on New Year's Eve 2008-09. It still may be too soon for a movie to portray the events of that night with any sensitivity or respect. But somehow, through the lethal mix of flaming cocktails, rock band pyrotechnics and a goofy decapitation by Christian cross, there is surprisingly sweet closure for one guy, portrayed by "Golf" Akara Amarttayakul and his girlfriend (Pimonrat Pisolyabut).
Imprison, directed by Manus, is a psychological horror, about a man ("Tae" Sattawat Sethakorn) who's put in a jail cell where a suicidal inmate's corpse had just been removed. Guilt weighs heavily on the prisoner, and with the passing of each night night behind bars, the horrible reality of what he's done grips him tighter and tighter. It doesn't help that the prisoner in an adjoining cell (Attaporn Teemakorn) is creeping him out.
Revenge, by Tanwarin, is a sickening look at what happens when a deaf drug dealer (Weeradit Srimalai) stashes an overdose victim (“Dew” Arisara Tongborisuth) in the water tank of his apartment building. It's not clear how it occurred to him to put the body there, without thinking through the possibilities of what might happen to the building's water supply. But Tanwarin, to her credit, shows us in sickening and graphic detail as bits of skin start turning up in people's water glasses. It's the classic Asian hair ghost, with those long black locks streaming out of the faucets and shower heads. The neighbors complain about the horrible odor of their water. Actress "Kratae" Supaksorn Chaimongkol is a resident leading the charge. She complains to the stern uncaring landlady, played in a guest-starring role by Wonderful Town actress Anchalee Saisoontorn. While the residents boil rice and shower in the foul water, the drug dealer is visited by the young woman's gore-covered ghost.
Finally there is Haunted Motel, a hilarious segment by Poj that features two veteran actresses, Mai Charoenpura, vamping it up for all its worth as an aging prostitute, and Wasana Chalakorn, the crazy lady from last year's The 8th Day, again as a crazy lady. Picked up by two men on a motorcycle ("Moddam" Kachapa Tancharoen and Ratchanont Sukpragawp) and taken to one of Bangkok's many curtained drive-in short-time motels, Mai finds herself in the room with a pair of bumbling idiots and thinks she can quickly abscond with the Blackberry phone of one of the men. But the gold-toothed old cat lady who runs the motel gets in the way. Meanwhile back in the room, more about the relationship of the two men is revealed. The segment gives way to the typical Thai horror comedy of much running around in circles while screaming, but brilliantly, Poj parodies the convention that he himself has been guilty of falling for, with Mai stopping to ask herself, "oh, why am I running around screaming?"
The segments, which unspool consecutively, are tied together by an opening scene that has the various characters meeting up around the nightclub. Mai's crooked hooker pickpockets Akara before she departs in search of other fresh meat. Kratae appears in Imprison as a visiting friend of the inmate. These feel like unnecessary padding until a final flourish at the end makes it all worth it.
Seeing Tai Hong in a cinema, with an enthusiastic Saturday night crowd was a great experience. The Grindhouse atmosphere -- the exploitive, ripped-from-the-headlines subject matter, the cast of familiar actors being put through their paces and a Suspiria-like color palette -- was firmly felt when the reel broke almost toward the end. The lights came up immediately and a smooth jazz soundtrack blared out of the speakers. After about five minutes, just when folks were starting to wonder if the movie was over, the lights went out and the movie started back up again, and Tai Hong roared to an ending that will likely seem a lot less impactful when seen at home on DVD.