Casts : Laila Boonyasak, Pongsatorn Jongwilak, Maneerat Kham-uan
Phobia is a compendium of four short horror films – in the style of the classic US horror movies such as Tales From The Crypt, Twilight Zone: The Movie and Creepshow – from a selection of Thai directors.
The first, ‘Happiness’, directed by Yongyoot Thongkongtoon, focuses exclusively on a lone occupant of a single room, a young woman incarcerated in her apartment due to a broken leg suffered in a car accident. She is bored and lonely until she starts receiving text messages from an unknown stranger. Thongkongtoon’s ponderous and quasi-poetic direction adeptly transforms familiar surroundings into first unsettling and then frightening environments. This dialogue-free short is the most subtle of the quartet and a strong opening salvo.
Paween Purikitpanya’s ‘Tit for Tat’ follows, in which a group of bullies are expelled when they are caught consorting with Mary Jane by one of their wimpier schoolmates. They exact their revenge and their victim returns in kind, aided by black magic, with very gory results. In stark contrast to ‘Happiness’, the direction is much more fluid, visuals flash across the screen in a near-subliminal manner and the camera is in a constant state of movement, making for an exhilarating rollercoaster of a film. Unfortunately, the short is badly let down by some incredibly ropey CGI towards its conclusion which undoes a lot of the work it had previously done to draw the viewer into its reality. Its final shock still manages to deliver though.
Probably the best of the bunch is Banjong Pisanthanakun’s ‘In the Middle’. Four teenage lads embark on a Deliverance-style rafting and camping trek through the jungle and scare each other with ghost stories, until an accident throws them into the middle of one. The film is a very tongue in cheek skewering of film buffs and throws in plenty of references to the twisty-turny narratives of the films it is spoofing/paying tribute to. In an amusing nod, one of the characters wears this very spoilery t-shirt. The film also manages to be chilling as well as witty and boasts a very likable cast.
The final part of the set is Parkpoom Wongpoom’s ‘Last Flight’, which while visually and thematically strong, is nixed somewhat by its too ridiculous for its own good plot. An air hostess tends to a princess on a special flight. They get off to a rather bad start as the royal is all too aware that the stewardess is fooling around with her partner. Events conspire and the princess dies while on her trip and the air hostess is once again entrusted to take care of the royal as her body is flown back home. Spooky goings-on occur, but are they real or just part of the hostess’ guilty conscience? The special effects are very good and actors do rather well with flawed material but the incredibly heightened reality serves to undermine any potential frights. The film is also guilty of perpetuating some uncomfortably misogynist views which bristled with my sensibilities.