Monday, May 11, 2015

Zombies to the rescue in Phi Ha Ayodhaya

Might as well admit it: I'm bored by Thai films.

Apart from indie art-house efforts off the festival circuit, short films, documentaries, and the increasingly rare Thai action movie, Thai cinema offers fewer and fewer of the types of compelling genre films that got me interested in Thai films in the first place. Instead, it's been one sentimental romantic melodrama after another, and there's only so much of that I can stomach.

Thankfully, there are still a few directors around who will take risks, and director MR Chalermchatri "Adam" Yukol aims to shake things up with zombies in Phi Ha Ayodhaya (ผีห่าอโยธยา , a.k.a. The Black Death). Distributed by Sahamongkol, it comes out in local cinemas this week, and is being promoted against a big Hollywood tentpole, Mad Max: Fury Road. Hell, I'm going to see them both.

Adam's sophomore feature effort following his 2013 contemporary crime drama The Cop, Phi Ha Ayodhaya was made as his father was wrapping up his Legend of King Naresuan saga. The sixth and final entry in MC Chatrichalerm Yukol's historical-action franchise is still screening in a few cinemas. And yes, this sixth part really is the last, which brings the eight-year-long Naresuan story to a logical conclusion and offers everyone a much-needed sense of closure.

Piggybacking on Naresuan by using that film's massive period sets in Kanchanaburi, Adam's zombie flick is also set hundreds of years ago in the old Siamese realm. It's a weird time, with villagers mysteriously dying off but then coming back to life with a hunger for the living. Monks and black magic, which usually work against traditional Thai ghosts, are of no use.

Fortunately, the ancient zombie fighters have swords at the ready.

Thai horror cinema has generally favored ghosts, but zombies have periodically popped up over the years. Taweewat Wantha's absolutely insane SARS Wars and rapper Joey Boy's Gancore Gud (ก้านคอกัด, a.k.a. Dead Bite) are a couple of worthwhile examples.

Adam, who has a keen eye for classic genre cinema, has said he was inspired by George Romero's Night of the Living Dead, which spawned sequels, remakes and countless imitators.

Hopefully local cinema-goers will give Phi Ha Ayodhaya a chance, and crack the door back open for Thai genre films and break the mainstream industry out of its current cycle of mind-numbingly dull romance flicks. The trailer was enough to get me interested in Thai films again, for the time being.

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