Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Review: Ror Dor Khao Chon Phee Thee Khao Chon Kai

  • Directed by Tanwarin Sukkhapisit
  • Starring Somchai Kemklad
  • Released in Thai cinemas on January 22, 2015; rated 15+
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 2/5

The commercialization of former indie rebel Tanwarin Sukkapisit continues apace with the throw-away horror-comedy Ror Dor Khao Chon Phee Thee Khao Chon Kai (รด.เขาชนผีที่เขาชนไก่).

Produced by that infamous purveyor of cross-dressing schlock, Poj Arnon, and released by Phranakorn Film, audiences can be excused for believing they are seeing yet another movie directed by the prolific Poj. It looks very similar to Poj's recent Mor 6/5 horror comedies, which involve a dozen or so schoolboys in various states of shrieking and shirtlessness.

But no, it's directed by Tanwarin, who co-wrote the script. The story, best as I can make out, has schoolboys in Kanchanaburi's Khao Chon Kai military boot-camp, taking part in Thailand's version of the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC). It's a scheme that gets young men out of having to participate in the drawing for the military draft, but here they have to contend with something far more frightening (to them anyway) – a pair of ghosts.

One of the pale-skinned spirits is portrayed with his usual frightening intensity by veteran leading man Somchai Kemklad. I'm not sure he needed much makeup. He's a terrifying drill instructor who has become even more menacing ever since his run-in a year before with a landmine. The other ghost is a kid, a cadet, who was apparently killed by the dead drill instructor. He always turns up and greets the frightened boys with a quick twitch of his eyebrow.

As with these horror comedies, most of the time is eaten up by the usual headache-inducing running around and screaming, even though the ghosts aren't very scary. The scares, such as they are, are interspersed with a bath-time dance sequence, with the boys doing a K-pop number while wearing just their underwear briefs.

With nearly a dozen schoolboy characters, it's near impossible to pick one as outstanding. All look the same in (and out) of uniform, with the same buzzcut hairstyle. And they act in the same stupid manner with little to distinguish them apart. There's a mean guy, and another guy has a dumb smile. Yet another guy always freezes in place when he encounters a ghost, which actually isn't a bad tactic. There's an interesting trio of comic-relief ladyboy characters, all with the requisite amount of sass, but with a cast already filled with clowns, they aren't really needed and are quickly forgotten.

There are probably serious issues this overwhelmingly homoerotic film could have dealt with, such as how gay guys and transgenders cope with the boot-camp setting. But with all the nonsensical running around and screaming, it's hard to take anything seriously.

Behind-the-scenes photos from the set indicate that Tanwarin likely had a blast playing general to her troupe of young actors in army uniforms. I think they had more fun making the movie than anyone did watching it.

For Tanwarin, Ror Dor represents yet another move deeper into commercial territory after years of making edgy short films. Well respected within the industry, the transgender filmmaker took hard knocks when her highly personal and sexually explicit indie drama Insects in the Backyard was banned from screening in Thailand. She then set out on a purely commercial direction, helming the Issan-dialect country comedy Hak Na Sarakham (produced by Prachya Pinkaew at Sahamongkol) and then turning back to transgender issues and addressing them in a mainstream way with the award-winning drama It Gets Better. Last year, she did two decent features, the cute horror comedy Threesome and the Japanese-Thai romance Fin Sugoi. Tanwarin hooked up with Poj on the producer-director's Die a Violent Death omnibus horrors, directing the better segments, acting in front of the lens and helping with various other aspects of the productions.

Here's hoping Tanwarin is banking the cash earned from these jobs, with an eye toward making another award-winner. That would distinguish her from Poj, who just seems to keep making bad movies and then using the cash from those to make more bad movies.

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