Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Review: Laddaland

  • Directed by Sophon Sakdaphisit
  • Starring Saharat Sangkapreechat, Piyathida Woramuksik, Sutadta Udomsil, Atipit Chutiwatkajornchai
  • Released in Thai cinemas on April 28, 2011; rated 18+
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 4/5

Family dysfunction and ghosts combine for genuine terror in Laddaland (ลัดดาแลนด์, a.k.a. The Lost Home), an intense, dread-filled drama about a father struggling to keep his family together in a haunted housing development.

It's the second feature directed by Sophon Sakdaphisit, who previously co-wrote the hit GTH horror thrillers Shutter and Alone and made his debut with the haunted-film flick Coming Soon. The tale is loosely based on fact – producer Jira Maligool gave Sophon the idea, telling him about a haunted theme park in Chiang Mai, and the story was shifted to the housing estate.

Saharat Sangkapreecha stars as a dad determined to make his family happy. He's just moved to a housing estate in Chiang Mai, where he's taken a new job. Dad lovingly prepares for the arrival of his family, setting up all the furniture and preparing bedrooms for his young son and teenage daughter. After pouring over his wedding-photo albums, he sits down at the little four-seat dining room table and practices the speech he's going to give his family at their first meal in their new home. Which is kind of creepy from the get-go.

The housing development is one of those suburban gated communities, where row upon row of single-family homes stretch for as far as the eye can see. Each house is the same, with the same green patches of yard and a driveway to park the family station wagon.

It's the American dream, with children scampering in the lawn sprinklers and Golden retrievers playing fetch. Only it's in Thailand, and it doesn't take long before the dream is shattered.

The teenage daughter doesn't like the new house. She misses the grandmother who raised her and her friends in Bangkok. Though she softens a bit when she sees the flowering tree her dad painted on her bedroom wall. But dad doesn't get to give his little speech, because the daughter's BlackBerry rings as they are starting dinner. It's grandma – the mother-in-law who's made life miserable for dad.

Other blots on the family's idyllic existence include the neighbor's intrusive black cat – now there's a subtle omen. The mewling feline leaves a deposit on the lawn. It belongs to an unfriendly neighbor who abuses his wife. No, all is not well behind the walls of these homes.

And then a Burmese maid ends up found murdered in a house down the street, stuffed inside a refrigerator with her face burned off by acid.

And so the suspense builds and hardly lets up. Misdirection, fake jumps, plenty of don't-go-in-there moments and scary soundtrack cues are deftly played. And just what is that air-conditioner's magic eye looking at?

Meanwhile, more and more about the father's background is revealed – a shady, pyramid-scheme sales job, financial pressures, the ungrateful, rebellious daughter, jealousy about his wife's former boss and that darn, disapproving mother-in-law.

It's enough to make a man crack and go out and buy a gun. Which he does. And the dread edges a notch higher.

Mother's feeling the pressure too. It's those pesky ghosts. And when the little boy swears up and down he was playing with one of them, mother doesn't believe him. And the back and forth between the two – "you're lying", "I'm not lying", "you're lying", "I'm not lying" – escalates to the point that mom is smacking the kid around and bringing the audience to the point of tears.

More than a truly scary ghost thriller, Laddaland is a terrifying picture of family dysfunction, reminiscent of Tokyo Sonata in more than a few notes, with a bit of Poltergeist thrown in. Even a bit of Shutter is recalled, thanks to the cat-cam around the black kitty's neck.

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  1. Nice review, it certainly is a classy movie with character development and highlights the dysfunctional family dynamics shared by many..

  2. Watched it in Thailand and really love it !!!
    I think this is best horror/ghost movie with Shutter and Phobia that I have ever seen...

  3. Looking forward to this, it's coming to Singapore in June!

  4. i liked it, it wasn't as scary as i had hope it to be but it was still a good story.


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