Saturday, 31 August 2013

Haunted Night

Director: Teratorn Siripanwaraporn
Writer: Watinee Orakorn
Producer: Ongart Singlumpong
Cast: Suvinit Panjamawut, Manusnun Punlertwongsakul, Tawut Tutsanapolpinij
Year of release: 2004
Country: Thailand
Reviewed from: Thai VCD

Here is yet another in the seemingly bottomless well of Asian ‘high school ghost movies’. It all started, I guess, in Japan then spread to Korea with films like Whispering Corridors and Memento Mori, and shortly afterwards reached Thailand. 303: Fear, Faith, Revenge was the first Thai high school ghost flick that I saw; I don’t know how many others there are but I would imagine a fair few.

Haunted Night (Pom Lon) concerns three friends: Danthai is a good-looking guy (Suvinit Panjamawut from Jan Dara, Ong-Bak and Three), Yadfon is a good-looking girl and Kong is a slightly geeky-looking guy. Back when they were about nine or ten they went exploring a haunted house on a rainy night, together with hulking school bully Tongkon. On discovering a trapdoor, Tongkon insisted on exploring the cellar alone. The others latched the trap after him then left and Tongkong was never seen again.

Seven years later, the bully they killed is back to haunt them, still looking like his ten-year-old self and still wearing the same green rain mac that he wore on that night. The film flicks between the present day and seven years ago, and kudos to the casting director (or possibly the make-up artist) for finding three child actors who look so much like their teenage versions.

There’s a nice spooky opening as two teenage girls walk along the balcony of an apartment block. As Girl A is chatting, the camera zooms in slightly on her and we lose sight of Girl B. Girl A turns to her friend - and she is nowhere to be seen. The balcony is empty, but a glance over the side and there is Girl B spreadeagled on the concrete three floors below. Girl A runs down the stairs but when she reaches the spot, the body has disappeared and as she looks around in bewilderment, Girl B runs up to her, breathlessly, having chased her downstairs.

During the opening conversation, Girl B’s dialogue was muted slightly with no background noise and I wondered if this was simply bad ADR work, but in fact there is a narrative reason for this which plays out right at the end. The three teens are seeing premonitions of how they will die - or at least, how Tongkon will try to kill them.

There are some nicely creepy moments with the ghostly version of Tongkon, whose pudgy build and green pac-a-mac make a pleasant change from yet another girl with long black hair, and the horror and tension is racked up considerably towards the end. When the teens return to the house they open up the basement to find a small skeleton and from that point Tongkon’s spirit becomes an even bigger threat, including taking possession of people.

Most intriguing of all is the moral ambiguity of the situation. Tongkon was a bully, that much we see, and like many bullies he is friendless and angry, which does not in any way excuse his taunting of the kids (especially Kong). But he is not violent or vindictive and even if he was, would that justify leaving him to starve to death, trapped in the basement of an abandoned old house? And if such justification is not forthcoming does his hideous, tragic, drawn-out death in turn actually justify his posthumous attempts to kill his killers?

This idea may well be explored in the script, but as this VCD - purchased as usual from eThaiCD - was unsubtitled I have no way of telling (there is also a DVD but I believe that has no subs either). The screenplay is based on a story by Sorajak and the music is by Verapong Supornprasert. The Tales from the Thai Crypt-style opening and closing sequences suggest that this TV movie may be part of an ongoing anthology series.

Producer Ongart Singlumpong is also a director (Friendship Breakdown is one of his films) while director Teratorn Siripanwaraporn helmed Where is Tong? (a non-supernatural kids adventure with some minor horror elements) and one third of romantic comedy anthology Promise Me Not.

MJS rating: B
review originally posted 25th April 2005

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