- Directed by Kittithat Tangsirikit, Sittisiri Mongkolsiri, Saranyoo Jiralak
- Starring Jirayu La-ongmanee, Sutatta Udomsilp, Pimpakan Phraekhunnatham, Krit Sathapanapitakkij, Ekkawat Ekatchariya
- Released in Thai cinemas on June 27, 2013; rated 15+
- Wise Kwai's rating: 4/5
Thai filmmakers continue to find ways to innovate with the tried-and-true horror-anthology format in Last Summer (ฤดูร้อนนั้น ฉันตาย, Rue Doo Ron Nan Chan Tai), a three-act story that is shared by three directors who each take a segment that focuses on one main character.
Last Summer deals with the demise of a star high-school student. Her spirit haunts friends and family members who are responsible in their own ways for the girl’s death.
The story starts out in the typical way of teen ghost thrillers, with the youngsters cutting loose for a weekend of partying. One kid, Singha, steals his dad’s car and the keys to the family’s beach house, and brings along his classmates, including his buddy Garn (Krit Sathapanapitakkij), budding actress and popular girl Joy (Pimpakan Phraekhunnatham) and Joy’s gal pal Meen. Beach frolicking and boozing at the house follow, but then Joy becomes drowsy and she’s never the same again. Oh, she eventually wakes up, but it’s in the way corpses bolt upright and scare the daylights out of you.
In this first part, directed by Kittithat Tangsirikit, the suspense ratchets up as the kids struggle to dispose of Joy’s body. But she isn’t going to go easily or quietly. For example, the trunk lid on dad’s Mercedes won’t close, so the dead Joy has to ride in the back seat next to Meen. A nosy uncle pops by to cause further problems for the kids, who are all bickering about whose fault it is Joy died.
Eventually, Singha folds Joy up into a suitcase – he wanted to have his way with her, but not like this. The conclusion of this fast-moving first act is explosive and unpredictable.
Back at school for the second segment, directed by Sittisiri Mongkolsiri, Meen is left to pick up the pieces after that tragic summer weekend. With Joy out of the picture, she moves to the top spot as the school’s most popular girl and star pupil. Classmates seek her approval to be “friended” on Facebook and pose for photos with her. But Meen can’t shake the feeling that Joy’s spirit is haunting her. Guilt takes its psychological toll on the girl. Egged on by a scary soundtrack and dark school hallways, the dread is palpable as Meen runs up the stairs to escape the ghost.
The final segment, helmed by Saranyoo Jiralak, introduces a new character, Joy’s younger brother Ting (Ekkawat Ekatchariya), who’s always been in the shadow of his more-popular sister. A member of the school’s diving team, the Speedo-clad kid feels more pressure as as his overbearing mother channels her grief into pushing him harder.
More spookiness is wrought from their house, where Joy’s mom keeps dressmaking dummies with the girl’s old outfits around. A creaking staircase, a closet with a door that slams shut and a fusebox on the fritz sends the tension spiralling as Ting’s share of the guilt is revealed.
No one is let off the hook. Even Joy herself is responsible for her fate.
The strongest performances are from the two more-experienced young stars in the cast, Jirayu La-ongmanee as Singha and Sutatta Udomsilp as Meen. They usually play more-wholesome teens in the squeaky-clean GTH movies, so it’s refreshing to see them rise to the occasion of darker, flawed characters. Sutatta is particularly good as the guilt-ridden Joy.
Last Summer is the first release by a new studio, Talent 1, which pulled together an all-star team of Thai indie filmmakers. Kongdej Jaturanrasmee wrote the script and is one of the producers, along with industry veteran Rutaiwan Wongsirasawad and independent director Pimpaka Towira. Line producers were Aditya Assarat, Soros Sukhum and Pawas Sawatchaiyamet. These are guys etter known for directing and producing slow-moving art-house dramas, and they were out to prove they could make a horror thriller that’s as slick and commercial as anything put out by the big studios. It’s a heck of good beginning.