Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Review: Heaven and Hell (Wong Jorn Pid)

  • Directed by Yuthlert Sippapak and Tiwa Moeithaisong
  • Released in Thai cinemas on July 12, 2012; rated 18+
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 3/5

Yuthlert Sippapak is renowned for his penchant for mixing genres in his films. And he can't restrain himself from leaping from suspense to comedy to drama and back again to suspense even in a short film. His crazy genre-bending yields mixed results in Heaven and Hell (Wong Jorn Pid, วงจรปิด), a trio of "found footage" horror shorts purportedly taken from security cameras.

Here, Yuthlert collaborates with Tiwa Moeithaisong, who's been his cinematographer on his past several features. Yuthlert directs two of the segments, while Tiwa chips in with one.

It's Tiwa's segment, Ghost Legacy, that opens the movie. And it's the most stylish of the trio, processed in black and white and given a grainy appearance. Apart from the sophisticated angles, which are explained anyway, it really does look like it came from a security cam. It sounds like security camera footage too – it's a "silent" film, with spooky sound effects and intertitles for the dialogue

The action takes place in a creepy old mansion where a pair of Siamese twins are visiting. Apparently, their grandfather has died and they are there to hear his last will and testament. The timeline jumps all over the place, and mainly focuses on a corrupt plainclothes police detective investigating murders in the mansion, but what he's really looking for is a cache of gold. Of course, the ghosts in this mansion have other ideas.

Yuthlert's segments do away with the silent-film treatment, switching to sound and color. They also reveal the ultra-low budget of the project, with ghosts and ghouls in obvious makeup and low-tech effects. But that only makes it more fun.

Heaven 11 takes place in a convenience store, where three clerks have been killed. A policeman – Yuthlert's long-time cop and partner-in-crime Adirek "Uncle" Wattleela – is overseeing the scene and letting in a comical pair of security camera technicians in. While the technicians are working, they find the ghosts of the clerks on the closed-circuit screens and are freaked out.

Next, a young woman in a school uniform arrives to work at the store, which it turns out her father owns. She's going through a break-up with her boyfriend, and is working her iPhone to talk to her friends while she finds herself haunted by the ghosts, one of which hung herself above the cashier's counter. And it seems like the hanged woman's spirit is trying to get others to follow her.

Heaven 11 is the most uneven and confusing of the segments. The annoying shrieking schoolgirl doesn't help. The arrival of another clerk, who appears to be a zombie, is actually a relief.

The comical security camera technicians reappear in the last segment, Hell No. 8, where they are servicing the camera in a scuzzy, broken-down elevator that's haunted by the ghost of a woman who was fatally stabbed. The elevator only travels from the first floor to the eighth floor, and all men who get in the elevator are haunted by the violent female ghost – women are immune from the scary spirit.

There's plenty of laughs as the ghost girl jumps back and forth in front of the elevator door, in and out of the frame, to frighten the occupants inside the lift.

As scattershot Heaven and Hell is in terms of style and genre, there's an overarching theme of feminism, with strong female roles in Yuthlert's segments – the girl ghosts get their revenge.

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