The karmic horror thriller 9 Wat (9 วัด, Secret Sunday) opened today, the start of Songkran, the Thai New Year, one of the biggest holidays in the Kingdom.
The release day is auspicious, because many adherents do just what they are doing in the film -- visit nine Buddhist temples in a bid to erase bad karma and clear the way for good luck.
That isn't the way it's working out for the character played by "Noon" Siriphan Wattanajinda (ศิรพันธ์ วัฒนจินดา), a beauty columnist who is being haunted for some reason. Maybe because she dyed her hair a bleach blond. Or wears thick eye makeup. And dresses in contemporary fashions. And swims in a bikini. The spirits can't take it. They are angered by non-traditional Thai looks.
Noon says it's the most-challenging role she's had yet. The actress debuted in the 2005 romantic comedy Puean Sanit (Dear Dakanda), playing a tomboyish art student and let's-be-just-be-friends love interest for the heartbroken protagonist. She then starred in Wisit Sasanatieng’s Pen Choo Kab Phee (The Unseeable), playing a wide-eyed pregnant girl who turns up at a country mansion looking for her missing husband. She then co-starred with Princess Ubol Ratana in the country-teacher drama Where the Miracle Happens. And she's due to be seen in MC Chatrichalerm Yukol's upcoming Legend of King Naresuan 3. Noon talked more about her 9 Wat character in The Nation last week:
Poon may seem confident and aggressive but in fact, she’s very vulnerable. It wasn’t easy for me take the part because I come from a very conservative family,” says the actress, who agreed to take the role only after her mother read the script and gave the green light.
“Her decision really encouraged me to do this project even if it does blow my good girl image,” she says.
I hope Noon, as well as other Thai actresses, continue to take on more challenging roles without fear of losing work because their "good girl" image is spoiled. But that's the reality of the pettiness in the film and television industry here.
The director is Saranyoo Jiralak (ษรัณยู จิราลักษม์), who's making his feature debut. Like many Thai directors, he got his start in the late 1990s boom, working as an assistant under Nonzee Nimibutr (2499 Anthaphan Krong Muang (Dang Bireley's and the Young Gangsters), Nang Nak and Jan Dara) and Wisit Sasanatieng (Fah Talai Jone (Tears of the Black Tiger). He's been making mostly commercials since then. He talked to The Nation about the message of his movie:
I don’t believe karma can be fixed. We all have to pay for what we have done.”
The director takes a new approach to the horror flick presenting it as a road movie, with the characters moving from a chic office in neon lit Bangkok to the dark jungle of northern Thailand. Nestled in the mountains, Nan is still a peaceful province, one that has been little troubled by modern society and is an ideal setting for a mystery with lots of low-key tropical growth and mist.
"When people travel to places they haven't been before, they feel totally lost. But in the end, they will learn to grow and face up to the situation," he says.
Saranyoo says his first choice wouldn't have been a horror flick but after discussions with new production company, Oriental Eyes, he decided it could be an interesting project.
"Although the Thai film industry has a lot of ghost and horror movies, I believe there is room for new ideas. I hope the audience is ready to open their minds."
9 Wat is the second release from Oriental Eyes, which debuted with Where the Miracle Happens. Upcoming films from the company are My Best Bodyguard and Legend of the Queen, both starring Princess Ubol Ratana.