Thursday, February 28, 2008

Review: The 8th Day

  • Directed by Chodchai Yoadsaranee
  • Written by Warisara Puthpavana
  • Starring Watsana Chalakorn, Thanarate Siriwattanagul, Jennie Oprasert
  • An ANA Film Network release produced by Piya Khuntipakorn, Somchai Leenanruk, Ladda Santriratnukul
  • Released in Thailand cinemas on February 28, 2008
  • Rating: 4/5
Though you might perceive some multi-hued nuances in your life, the rest of the world sees things in black and white, which isn’t always right. That’s the message of The 8th Day, a monochrome independent psychological thriller, written by Warisara Puthpavana and directed by Chodchai Yoadsaranee.

While it creates a mysterious atmosphere, the black and white film also allows for a reversal of aesthetics when there are flashback scenes. A film cliche is to run the flashbacks in black and white. Here, they are in living colour.

The 8th Day takes place in a close-knit Bangkok neighbourhood, where everybody thinks they know everybody’s business. So the community comes unglued when a little girl goes missing.

Turns out, Nong Prae (Jennie Oprasert) has been taken inside the home of the local washerwoman, a mentally unstable “auntie” named Choom (Watsana Chalakorn). So fragmented are Choom’s thoughts, she goes off and leaves Prae in a closed-off upstairs room in her dusty old house, and forgets about her. The next morning, when she hears the girl stirring, Choom thinks she is hearing the ghost of her own daughter, who died accidentally years before.

Watching the whole thing transpire is a smug college student, Num (Thanarate Siriwattanagul), who thinks he’s just stumbled on the ultimate thesis for his psychiatry degree. But his actions should provide a case study in medical ethics.

For seven days this goes on, with Choom trying to go about her daily routine, but becoming rattled by the “ghost” girl in her upstairs room. One day, the scatter-brained mommie dearest picks up a wire coat hanger, and the results are not pretty. All the medical student does is peep at the action through his binoculars and compile his research.

However implausible the story might be, The 8th Day is still worth watching for the fact that it dares to break away from the tiresome formula of so many contemporary Thai suspense films, which use sound or musical cues and gross-out effects to create scares. Here, the thrill is all in the sense of dread that falls across the expressive face of lead actress Watsana, with a reward for the look on that face on the first day following her week-long ordeal.

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(Cross-published at The Nation Weblog)

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