Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Pair of Thai thrillers in theaters

The serial killer thriller Zee-Oui and a sci-fi adventure Ukkabat have opened in Thai theaters this week.

Zee-oui is based on real-life case of a Chinese immigrant in the 1940s in Thailand who murdered children and ate their internal organs.

The title character is played by Chinese actor Duan Long, a bit of casting that the Bangkok Post found inspired.

To have a Chinese man playing a Chinese man has a significant implication in the movie's probe into Zee-oui's tormented psychology: Zee-oui probably started killing because he was a lowly foreigner in an unfamiliar land, bullied and unloved by people and by society. Asthmatic, belittled, and marginalised, Zee-oui lives under huge pressure -- the kind that perhaps no Thai actors could imagine.

"Having Duan Long in the film is a great push," says Buranee Racjaibun who directed the film with Nida Sudasna. "The actor is a Chinese man who came [to shoot this film] in a foreign environment, just like Zee-oui did in his days. More or less they had to endure the same difficulties, and that kind of adds emotional authenticity to the story."

Adapting the Zee-oui case into a film also entails an automatic commercial thrust. Though Zee-oui's terror has faded into a nostalgic legend, many Thai adults now grew up listening to the tale of his horror as their parents warned them not to wander around after dark or the Chinese would come for them. The film's spooky nature, too, is a factor that the producers bank on as they aim to cash in on the wave of ghost movies, always a popular genre for Thai crowds.

While Zee-oui is the first film from a new studio, Matching Motion Pictures, the other offering, Ukkabat, or Still Meteor, is the latest work by veteran director Bhandit Rittakol (The Moonhunter, Tigress at King River).

A sci-fi adventure, it is a tale of telepathic battle between two men born on the day a mysterious meteor fell on their village.

The film relies heavily on CGI. Bhandit has more:

I just want to try doing something different, something I've never done before," he said. "I have an interest in computer effects, and I use them in this film because I want to be familiar with the process. It's like my own education, but at the same time it's for the entertainment of the viewers.

"In Ukkabat, I'm confident of the quality of the CG images because we started working with the specialists since we started shooting the film, and we've spent seven, eight months perfecting the final result. Of course it won't be on the same level of American movies -- we don't have that much money -- but it's realistic enough to make an interesting picture."

The Nation also covered the release of Zee-oui and Ukkabat, predicting both films would have a hard time competing with Sky Captain, which opened the same weekend.

(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

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