Saturday, October 6, 2012

Review: 9-9-81

  • Directed by Suthat Phawilairat, Disporn Sampattawanit, Phithak Rueangrotsin, Adirek Phothong, Pirun Anusuriya, Seree Lawchonnabot, Siriphon Prasatthong, Thanyawan Mepnom, Nuttorn Kangwanklai, Rapeemon Chaisayna, Kiattisak Wibunchat and Oliver Woonsan
  • Released in Thai cinemas on September 13, 2012; rated 15+
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 4/5

Horror-omnibus movies remain a staple of Thai cinema, especially as a fun way to put a bunch of young indie directors to work on a mainstream-industry film.

The genre is given a slight twist in the enjoyable and entertaining low-budget horror anthology 9-9-81 (บอก-เล่า-9-ศพ, Bok Lao 9 Sop). Twelve directors take part. But instead of them telling different stories in their segments, they each weave together a single tale with surprisingly cohesive results.

The story is about a bride-to-be (Patitta Attayatamavitaya) who jumps to her death from the roof of her creepy old rundown apartment building after she learns her fiancé has died. But he hasn’t. What really happened? The points of view of those close to the girl as well as a couple of innocent bystanders are recounted in nine segments.

First up is The Waiter by Sivalat Phawilairat, about a teenage boy who works at his aunt's streetside stall and has the job of delivering food trays to tenants of the apartment block. He's had a longstanding crush on the dead bride, going so far as to steal a pair of her underpants, into which he masturbates. After her high dive into the pavement – splat, right in front of him – he has the dilemma of returning the panties so that her ghost won't haunt him.

An innocent bystander who's caught up in all this is The New Tenant by Pitak Rueangrotsin. He's a comic-book illustrator who's moved into the room formerly occupied by the dead bride. He's also a cancer patient, and has apparently moved into the room while waiting to die, biding his time by drawing comics and smoking cigarettes. He comes across some of her former belongings, but is then called out of the room for mysterious circumstances. He returns to find it haunted. He shouldn't go into that bathroom, but he does because this is a horror film.

Not-so-innocent is the main character in Friend by Adirek Phothong and Siripon Prasatthong, chronicling the part the bride's best friend played. The obese girl, jealous of her attractive gal pal, is recruited by the handsome fiancé to take part in a scheme, which is further detailed in the next segment, The Lover, by Oliver Woonsan. Karma, for both of them, is a bitch. A disturbing picture emerges that the dead girl likely had pretty severe psychological troubles, causing the groom to have second thoughts.

More about what happened in the dead girl's apartment after the comic-book artist moved in is revealed in The Maid by Seree Lawchonnabot. It's one of the more comical segments, featuring a couple of superstitious old ladies as they use the apartment to cast black-magic spells in hopes of the dead girl's spirit giving them lottery numbers.

Mother by Nuttorn Kangwanklai and Thanyawan Mepnom profiles the dead bride's domineering mother, offering more hints about what caused the girl to turn out like she did.

The seventh segment, The Groom by Pirun Anusuriya profiles the person who was probably the only true friend the bride had – the proprietor of a wedding shop where she got all her supplies. With much tenderness and care, he takes part in a bizarre wedding ceremony with her corpse in a bid to appease her angry spirit.

Old Soldier by Rapeemon Chaisayna profiles the bride's father, a retired military man who perhaps did not have as strong a role in his daughter's upbringing as he should have. He is reluctantly drawn into his wife's scheme to avenge their daughter's death.

Finally, there's Old Dog by Disporn Sampattawanit and Kiattisak Wibunchat, about an alcoholic police detective who's doggedly trying to make sense of what happened. Despite his boozing, the detective connects the dots, but the constant haranguing phone calls from his police chief causes him to walk away, shaking his head, case unsolved.

In all, 9-9-81 entertains with laughs more than scares. Its low-budget aesthetics probably won't make it a big draw overseas, except for possibly genre festivals and direct-to-DVD releases.

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