Monday, December 8, 2014

Review: The Eyes Diary

  • Directed by Chookiat Sakveerakul
  • Starring Focus Jeerakul, Parama Im-anothai, Chonnikarn Natejui, Kittisak Pathommaburana
  • Released in Thai cinemas October 30, 2014; rated 15+
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 4/5

Chookiat Sakveerakul makes his return to horror with The Eyes Diary (คนเห็นผี, Kon Hen Pee), which blends in elements of romantic drama with the story of a bickering couple whose constant fighting his dire consequences.

Like Chookiat's sophomore feature effort, the thriller 13 Game Sayong (13: Game of Death, remade as 13 Sins), The Eyes Diary is based on a comic book. In this case, it's a Siam Intermedia title by Anek Roikaew. No relation to the Pang brothers' Eye franchise, The Eyes Diary actually feels similar to another Thai horror film, Shutter, including references to a haunted photo and a couple other elements.

But with a fine young cast and a story that slowly builds the tension and scares, The Eyes Diary has plenty to stand on its own.

Parama Im-anothai (It Gets Better) stars as Nott, a college drop-out who works for one of Thailand's rescue squads, those notorious crews of pickup-racing bodysnatchers who retrieve corpses from wrecks and clean up after suicides. He's a somber, brooding fellow who has the macabre habit of keeping souvenirs from the bodies he finds. His latest score is a rubber bracelet off the wrist of a motorbike rider who was ripped in half by a truck and spread like jelly on the highway. His co-worker and closest pal Jon (Kittisak Pathommaburana from Chookiat's Grean Fictions and Home) tries in vain to warn Nott from keeping dead people's stuff, but Nott is stubborn.

Anyway, Nott is haunted by the death of his girlfriend Plaa (Focus Jeerakul), who was killed in a bike wreck as the two were fighting. And her last words, "you'll never see me again", haunt him. He's desperate to find a way to communicate with her on the "other side", hence his predilection for collecting curios from corpses. Eventually, Nott is put in touch with an acquaintance of his old school friends, the young woman Modta (Chonnikarn Natejui), who has also suffered a loss of a loved one but has had some success in getting in touch with them. Also, there's Jon, who seems to have a talent for communicating with the dead.

The scares gradually ramp up. There's all that creepy stuff in John's cabinets, and all the horrifying ghosts, putrefied and gross from their various causes of death.

One thing I appreciated about The Eyes Diary was how it sought to build a universe in which belief in ghosts isn't necessarily taken for granted as it is in other ghost flicks. There's a healthy dose of skepticism among the characters. Perhaps, the biggest non-believer is Nott, who despite all the dead people's junk he collects still can't manage to break through and reach Plaa.

It's a solid cast, but the highlight is the two actresses, borrowed from the GTH stock company. Focus, who made her debut as one of the child stars of Fan Chan in 2003, gives a performance that subtly shifts from sweet and vulnerable to terrifying.

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