Sunday, May 11, 2014

Review: Mor 6/5 Pak Ma Tha Mae Nak

  • Directed by Poj Arnon
  • Starring Wanida Termthanporn, Pongpit Preechaborisutkun
  • Released in Thai cinemas on April 10, 2014; rated G
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 2/5

Since the legend of Mae Nak Phra Khanong originated more than a century ago, storytellers, playwrights and filmmakers have all sought to put their own spin on the tale of the ghost wife Nak, who died in childbirth while her husband was away at war. But her love was so strong, her spirit remained, and when Mak returned, his love was so strong, he was blind to the fact that his wife was no longer alive.

Now comes Thailand's reigning cinematic snakeoil salesman, Poj Arnon. A shameless opportunist who's never one to shy away from making a film that's ripped from today's headlines, his latest zeitgeist-capturing effort is Mor 6/5 Pak Ma Tha Mae Nak (มอ 6/5 ปากหมาท้าแม่นาค, a.k.a. Mathayom pak ma tha Mae Nak). It blends last year's blockbuster Thai movie Pee Mak – the record-shattering box-office hit – with his own 2013 horror-comedy, Mor 6/5 Pak Ma Tha Pee (Make Me Shudder!), in which bratty schoolboys ran and screamed as they were chased by ghost teachers.

While GTH's Pee Mak added four of Mak's bumbling war buddies to the Mae Nak Phra Khanong story, Poj ups the ante by adding 10 foul-mouthed shrieking schoolboys in short pants.

Taking a cue from another of last year's hit movies, the indie teen drama Tang Wong, the Mathayom 6/5 fellows pray to the Mae Nak shrine for good luck on their school exams. But, being complete idiots, they insult the shrine and find themselves pulled back in time to Mae Nak's day.

They then hamfistedly attempt to assist in Mae Nak's giving birth, but of course botch things up.

Later, Nak and her baby Dang appear to be just fine, and apparently alive. She tasks the boys with going to the battlefield to track down Mak and tell him the good news.

Of course, the lads all have to don period clothing, so off come the shirts, out come outlandish "historic" hairstyles and, for good measure, their teeth are blackened in keeping with the fashion of the era.

A short action scene later, the boys have returned with Mak (Pongpit Preechaborisutkun), but something's off. It appears Nak is dead after all. Torch- and pitchfork-wielding villagers band together against the ghost while the boys attempt to gently clue Mak in while also not upsetting Nak.

The story then follows the usual lines of the Mae Nak story as well as the usual Thai horror-comedy rhythms of nonsensical, headache-inducing running around and screaming.

Poj sets up plenty of opportunities for the boys to get close together, grabbing onto each other out of fear. Several scenes are devoted to the shirtless, loincloth clad young men sleeping, arranged with one boy's head making a pillow out of another lad's groin, much to the audience's delight.

Singer-actress Wanida "Gybzy Girly Berry" Termthanaporn joins the pantheon of Thai actresses to take on the role of Nak. Unfortunately, she isn't given much to do, other than look fierce, and I'm not sure she pulls it off. It seems she is upstaged by hair, makeup, costume and cheesy special effects, including a rubbery-looking arm stretch (hey, about a Stretch Armstrong-style Mae Nak action figure?)

As with the first Mor 6/5, the movie was filmed in 3D – the second to come from studio Phranakorn. But I didn't see it in 3D – Thai 3D releases are quickly supplanted in local cinemas by Hollywood 3D action movies and animation, so if you don't see them in 3D in the first week or so, you'll likely miss out. But I don't feel I missed a thing. If anything, the 3D would have just given me a bigger headache.

Mor 6/5 Pak Ma Tha Mae Nak has persisted in hanging around in cinemas after nearly a month, earning around 30 million baht, according to the latest published account. It's not near the record-setting levels of Pee Mak, but it's probably enough that Poj and Phranakorn will do another sequel, just as long as the boys look good in short pants and school uniforms.

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