Bangkok Haunted (2001)

Rating:

Thailand. 2001.

Crew

Directors – Oxide Pang Chung & Pisut Praesangeam, Screenplay/Producer – Pisut Praesangeam, Music – Doctor Head & Orange Music, Production Design – Nuttvut Pongarram & Sathit Praditsarn. Production Company – RS Film/Avant

Cast

Pimsiree Pimsee (Jieb/Paga), Dawan Singha-Wee (Pan), Pete Thong-Jeur (Nop), Kanyanut Sriboonrueng (Gunya)


Plot

Three girlfriends meet in a Bangkok cafe and tell each other spooky stories. Legend of the Drum:- Jieb receives the mysterious gift of a drum and comes to believe that it is haunted. She goes to her professor who tells her the story of Paga who was adopted and grew up a talented dancer. However, her brother, the facially deformed Gnod, became jealous when she announced her engagement to another man and the two mysteriously disappeared. Black Magic Woman:- Pan seeks to attract the ideal man. She desires Tim, a man that she sees on the boat, although he has a girlfriend. Her neighbour gives her some Ply Essence. By using the Essence, Pan is able to attract Tim. What she does not know is that the Essence is an extract from corpses in the morgue and has an unforeseen side effect. Revenge:- The detective Nop investigates after a girl is found hung. His superior is happy to dismiss the death as a suicide but Nop is certain that it is not. He investigates the background of the girl Gunya and the relationships she had with various men.


Bangkok Haunted was one of the early films from Oxide Pang Chung, better known, along with his twin brother Danny, as one half of the directing duo of The Pang Brothers. Oxide has previously made his directorial debut with Who is Running? (1997) and the two brothers had first combined together on the acclaimed action film Bangkok Dangerous (1999). The Pang Brothers real calling would come the year after this with the hugely successful The Eye (2002). (See below for the Pang Brothers’ other films).

To call Bangkok Haunted a Pang Brothers film is misleading. For one, it is only Oxide Pang directing and Danny’s name is not on the credits. Moreover, Oxide only directs the third episode Revenge – and this particular piece is more of a crime story than a horror episode and only enters into the supernatural in a couple of ambiguous shots. The bulk of Bangkok Haunted – ie. the first two episodes – are directed by Pisut Praesangeam. Needless to say, Pisut Praesangeam has failed to go onto the international acclaim that the Pang Brothers have. He has only directed three others films – none of these are genre material, all fall into comedy-action arena and do not appear to have attracted any particularly good write-ups.

What is perhaps noticeable about Bangkok Haunted as a horror anthology is that it has a 130-minute running time and tells only three stories. By contrast, the horror anthologies produced by Amicus in the 1960s-70s – Dr Terror’s House of Horrors (1964), Asylum (1972), Tales from the Crypt (1972) et al – usually managed to pack an average of five stories into a standard 90-minute runtime. The rule of thumb in these stories is that plot is pared to the bone with maximum economy. By contrast here, the first episode takes some fifteen minutes (the average running time of an individual episode in an Amicus anthology) to establish the framing story about the heroine being haunted and going to her professor who then tells her a story from his childhood, as well as an earlier epilogue about a man riding in the back of a truck being spooked by the drum and much in the way of establishing backstory about how Paga was adopted and grew up. The film also has a relatively weak wraparound frame – just three girlfriends in a cafe telling one other ghost stories (the girls also play the lead roles in each story they tell) – before the film reaches an ending that leaves the ambiguous impression that the two other friends were either ghosts or it was all in Jieb’s imagination.

The first story, Legend of the Drum, feels like an episode that strains with amateurish effect to create atmosphere. Bangkok Haunted was Pisut Praesangeam’s first directorial outing and clearly he has much to learn about the horror genre. The entire episode feels like it needs tightening by at least half its running time for one. The photography is so-so and the lighting schemes a crude copy of those in too many bad B horror movies. The brief venture into underwater photography is so murky it is difficult to tell what is going on. Praesangeam does generate a small amount of atmosphere but the episode is the dullest of the three.

The second episode Black Magic Woman is certainly an improvement in many of these areas. It too suffers from over much story and not enough paring away to a point of economy – there is a good deal of preamble with security guards in the mortuary, the removal of the extract from the corpses and scenes of Pan receiving and using the extract where we are not sure how all of these plot elements come together. They eventually do and the episode reaches an effective sting in the tail of the story where Pan receives her wish to get Tim away from his girlfriend, his corpse turns up at her apartment door wielding an axe and then we cut to the two of them buried in a coffin with he saying ‘Now we’ll always be together.–

The final episode is Oxide Pang Chung’s contribution Revenge. This seems out of place in a film entitled Bangkok Haunted as it is more of a police procedural in the vein of CSI: Crime Scene Investigators (2000-15) than it is a ghost story. There are a couple of scenes where we see the ghost girl in the back of the car (although cannot be sure if it is in the hero’s imagination) and very briefly in the warehouse at the end that at least justify the ghost story aspect. The crime story and the aspect of the investigator taking revenge on behalf of the dead girl works well and the episode comes to an effectively nasty twist ending.

The Pang Brothers went onto make:- the ghost story The Eye (2002) and its two sequels The Eye 2 (2004) and The Eye 10 (2005); the non-genre adaptation of Alex Garland’s novel The Tessarect (2003), the fantasy film Re-Cycle (2006), the Hong Kong Wu Xia film Storm Warriors (2009), The Child’s Eye (2010) and the non-genre fire rescue drama Out of Inferno (2013), as well as wrote the screenplay for Omen (2003), a multi-stranded story about three friends who receive ominous premonitions. They were imported to the US to make the English-language ghost story The Messengers (2007) and the English-language remake of Bangkok Dangerous (2008). Oxide Pang on his own has also directed Who is Running? (1997) about a man who receives tomorrow’s newspaper, Ab-Normal Beauty (2004), the ghost story Diary (2006), the quasi-supernatural detective story The Detective (2007) and the horror film Sleepwalker (2011), as well as wrote/produced The Remaker (2005). Danny has solo directed Forest of Death (2007), In Love with the Dead (2007), Fairy Tale Killer (2012) and The Strange House (2015), and solo produced Scare 2 Die (2008).



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