Friday, June 17, 2011

The Victim (Phii khon pen) (2006)

This review was originally published in 2006

After Korea put its signature stamp on the horror genre, Thailand was the next of our Eastern friends to follow suit with their exemplary ghost story Shutter. Since then, there have been a handful of decent Thai films but just as many bad, mostly focusing on the same oft-used Asian theme of vengeful spirits. One of their latest offerings, The Victim, is a strange mix of the two. It’s funny however, because this film managed to fool me. For the first half, something felt very off about the film. It seemed riddled with clichés and average J-Horror fare and I was ready to say it was another poor Thai effort. Surprisingly, a plot twist that I never saw coming made up for the first half of the film and was followed by an interesting storyline with a few decent scares.

Ting (Pitchanart Sakakorn) is an aspiring actress who has so far only made herself known in game show audiences. While demonstrating her “signature laugh” to a diner patron, she’s approached by a police officer who offers her a job reenacting real life murders for a Crime Scene Investigation show. Her acting is so convincing that it even fools the original killers and family members into believing she is the victim. Soon she’s doing these reenactments for different police units all over the country and is being offered TV roles as well. She’s on her way to the top until the death of a superstar named Meen (Apasiri Nitibhon) garners her attention. She’s set to star in the reenactment of Meen’s death until strange events start to plague the show’s production. Soon, Ting is seeing ghosts all around her and realizes that she may have more in common with Meen than she ever knew.

I’m going to stop there, like every other review, because I don’t want to ruin the twist. After it, the movie actually gets really interesting. Like Shutter, they implement a lot of the “ghosts on film” idea, which no matter what, always looks creepy to me. There are a few chilling scenes involving spying ghosts that are unbeknownst to Ting’s presence, but aside from that, a lot of the scares are a bit average: creepy ghosts moving really quickly, people turning around and running right into something scary, randomly haunted items, etc. What I like most about the film, though, is how it managed to fool me for the first half. I don’t know if it’s meant to be as slow and mediocre to make the twist better, but if so, then that’s pretty damn genius on the filmmakers’ part.

The Victim is without a doubt, a very watchable film. It has enough originality to keep Asian Horror fans interested and enough scares for those unfamiliar with the genre. It may not break any new ground for Asian or even Thai horror, but it’s still a step in the right direction. The end credits are particularly interesting, featuring footage from the movie in which real ghosts appear in the shots. Though this is probably a hoax, it still makes for a fun tongue-in-cheek ending. And speaking of endings, this film’s last ten minutes may leave you a little confused, but remember; it’s Asian cinema. They usually leave it up to you to thai everything together. Wokka!


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