Monday, August 25, 2008

Review: The Coffin (Lhong Tor Tai)

  • Directed by Ekachai Uekrongtham
  • Starring Karen Mok, Ananda Everingham, Napakapapa Nakaprasitte, Andrew Lim, Florence Vanida, Aki Shibuya
  • Released in Thai cinemas on August 21, 2008
  • Rating: 3/5

Can you change your luck? Can you escape bad karma? Can you cheat death?

In The Coffin, those questions are answered with a resounding "No!" in the form of a 10-wheel truck T-boning a Mercedes-Benz sedan.

It happens pretty quickly too. And once that question is out of the way early on, it frees up the rest of the movie for plenty of jump scares and scenes of ceaseless, calculated beauty from Beautiful Boxer and Pleasure Factory director Ekachai Uekrongtham.

A stunning Karen Mok leads the strong ensemble cast. She's Sue, a Hong Kong dietitian, obsessed about her health. So she curses her luck when she discovers she has cancer. She has run off to Thailand to avoid getting married and telling her intended about her illness. It's there she hears about the strange ritual of lying in a coffin, in the world's largest funeral for the living, in which adherents hope to reverse their bad fortunes.

In another storyline, Ananda Everingham is Chris, a Thai architect whose Japanese artist girlfriend (Aki Shibuya) is of fragile health. He hopes that lying in a coffin will make her better.

After the ritual, both Sue and Chris start experiencing strange things -- seeing people and things that aren't possible. Zoe finds her boyfriend from Hong Kong (Andrew Lim) is suddenly in Thailand. How can that be? And anyway, shouldn't she have been killed by that 10-wheel truck?

The ritual nearly kills Chris, whose claustrophobia made him so anxious, he went into a seizure. Of course, it doesn't help that a mysterious woman named May (Art of the Devil's Napakapapa Nakaprasitte) is crawling around in the coffin with him. She haunts his dreams. She is walking in a field, and he tries to catch up to her, but never can.

Sue hangs with her friend Nan (Florence Vanida), and tries to sort things out. Sharp-eyed viewers will spot Beautiful Boxer star Asanee Suwan as the swimmer Joe, who appears in case-study video that Sue and Nan watch. Chris looks for a remote, tree-shrouded temple from his dreams. The place is crematorium, tended by a drunken old man (Suchao Pongvilai).

Both Sue and Chris find what they are looking for, but the truth is not what they desired.

But they sure do look good. Horror is rarely this gorgeous. There's the symmetry of hundreds of coffins, arranged in concentric circles around a giant sitting Buddha, as well as a long closet, full of mirrors, all reflecting terror. Even the creepy old remote Buddhist temple has an idyllic charm. These are all from the eye of Ekachai, whose background in theatre makes the The Coffin like a stage production.

How about taking things a bit further, and adding some songs? The multi-talented Karen Mok could handle that, and probably the rest of the cast too. Perhaps Ekachai could take a cue from Joss Whedon's Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog and adapt The Coffin for the musical stage?

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1 comment:

  1. The musical is actually a brilliant idea. I believe the Pang Brothers would also be good candidates for the musical variant.
    And then, finally: A way to impress my musical loving, horror hating friends! ;)


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