- Directed by Poj Arnon
- Starring Somchai Khemklad, Pitchanart Sakakorn, Chudapa Jankhat, Arisara Tongborisuth
- Released in Thai cinemas on March 10, 2010; rated 15+
- Wise Kwai's rating: 3/5
The latest ripped-from-the-headlines thriller to hit the big screen in Thailand is Sop Dek 2002 (ศพเด็ก 2002, 2002: The Unborn Child), which is based on the scandal last year of the discovery of 2,002 fetuses in a Bangkok Buddhist temple that had come from illegal abortion clinics.
A movie-of-the-week and moralistic social-message film, there's a notification at the end that states its aim of preventing unwanted teen pregnancies, which is laudable, but I kind of doubt anyone will take it seriously. Because, after all, it's a movie by Poj Arnon.
And that's too bad.
This creepy thriller is a welcome departure from Poj's transvestite comedies. For the most part, it holds together as solidly serious suspense but runs off the rails in the third act as it seeks to tie things up and ensure that all the characters get what's coming to them, according to karma.
"Tao" Somchai Kemklad stars as Tri, a crime-scene photographer whose work puts him on a case of a woman left for dead after an abortion gone wrong. The young man is married to pretty schoolteacher Pim (horror queen "May" Pitchanart Sakakorn) and they have a 5-year-old daughter, Yaimai.
The little girl keeps seeing an imaginary friend in the shadows. She insists it's her little brother, which immediately casts suspicion on the parents.
The couple's apartment is pretty creepy with its dark wood and stark black-and-white photos of malnourished street urchins supposedly taken by Tri.
Meanwhile, there's an actress (Arisara Tongborisuth) who is pregnant and is wondering what to do with her baby.
And there's a teenage couple, students in teacher Pim's class. The girl becomes determined to have abortion after her jugeared boyfriend (Peerawit Bunnag) won't man up and commit to supporting her and the kid.
After abortion pills ordered from a website don't work, the girl goes to a rundown illegal abortion clinic run by a hard-bitten chain-smoking former nurse (veteran actress Chudapa Jankhat). Here's where the glorious gore is on full display. With blood dripping everywhere, blood-coated surgical gloves, blood-soaked instruments and pans and vessels filled with blood, the abortion doc goes to work with the aid of sickening sound effects. A wriggling fetus is yanked from the womb with forceps, plopped in bag and tossed on a pile of other bags in an adjoining room.
When it comes time to take out the trash, the abortion doc loads up her motorbike and visits the undertaker at a Buddhist temple. The fetal corpses are kept in numbered compartments at the back of the temple, where they await cremation. But the broken-down furnace puts cremations on hold, so the numbered cabinets become full. Which is what happened in the case of last year's real-life scandal.
The little girl Yaimai keeps seeing her little brother and getting into bizarre situations, like wandering off to the haunted Buddhist temple and scaring her mother half to death. Or she'll find herself playing on an ominously squeaking playground swing in the middle of the night or out on a ledge of the apartment, with no explanation of how she got there.
And Tri, given to an increasing amount of brooding as time wears on, is starting to see things himself – ghostly figures in photos he's taken, just like in the movie Shutter. He tries to take video of himself and his wife sleep – kinda kinky – and it's like something out of Paranormal Activity with the tripod repeatedly knocked down.
The suspense jiggers higher and higher, until the threads that bind these characters together are pulled tight.
And it's kind of ridiculous and fantastic at the same time, with one character smothering in a grave that's full of crawling dead babies and another sent over the brink by a swimming pool full of blood.
The cops come calling at the temple, and the rescue squad pulls out 2,002 bodies, and places them in 2,002 little body bags, just like in last year's abortion scandal.
Only Tri isn't among the crime photographers taking pictures.
Meanwhile, the high school boy visits his girlfriend in the hospital after her botched abortion, and apologizes for not "having protection". So at least there's that. But I wonder how many youngsters (or grown-ups for that matter) will take that bit of advice about preventive measures seriously?