Director/Screenplay – Ekachai Uekrongtham, Producer – Pantham Thongsang, Photography – Choochat Nantitunyatada, Music – Bruno Brugnano & Origin Kampany, Visual Effects – Chilly House, Special Effects – Sling, Production Design – Ratchata Panpayak. Production Company – Live Inc./Scorpio East Pictures/NGR/Global Entertainment Group/Tifa.
Karen Mok (Su), Ananda Everingham (Chris), Florence Faivre (Nan), Andrew Lin (Jack), Micheal Pupart (Professor Thanachai), Suthee Panvital (The Undertaker), Napakpapha Nakprasitte (May), Aki Shibuya (Mariko), Kirin Simon Young (Matt)
Su, a dietician from Hong Kong who is about to be married, is in Thailand for the coffin ritual. During the ritual, people are placed inside a coffin and symbolically buried so as to erase bad karma. She takes part in the largest such ritual ever held, as also does the Thai man Chris. Su is seeking to have the cancer in her lungs healed. Meanwhile, Chris wants a healing for his girlfriend Mariko who is in a coma. However, both Su and Chris experience nightmares while inside their coffins. Chris’s heart even stops for several minutes. Afterwards, Su is hit in a car crash but miraculously survives. She finds that her cancer has been healed at the time as her fiance Jack has been killed in a car crash. Both she and Chris are subsequently haunted by supernatural visions. Seeking answers, Su goes to a professor who has studied the coffin ritual who tells her that in some cases the bad karma is transferred over to a loved one.
The Coffin is a Thai film, the first genre entry for director Ekachai Uekrongtham. Although this is a Thai film, it feels as though effort has been made to shoot it for international audiences – it has imported Hong Kong actress Karen Mok in its lead in a clear attempt at crossover appeal (at least among Asian film audiences), while shooting also takes place in both Thailand and Singapore.
Before sitting to watch, one pegged The Coffin as another entry in the Asian horror fad that has grown up in recent years, following Japanese hits like Ring (1998), Ju-on: The Grudge (2003) and various sequels, imitators and English-language remakes. There have been a number of Thai entries in this fad, most notably with the films from the Pang Brothers, especially their hit The Eye (2002).
The Coffin certainly catches your attention from its opening scene in which a female tv presenter is talking to the camera as the camera pulls back to reveal she is in a coffin where she explains how she has been buried alive as part of the ritual to banish bad karma, while the shot keeps pulling back to reveal that she is in an arena surrounded by hundreds of identical coffins. The ritual aspect – one has no idea whether the coffin ceremony is a real Thai ritual or not – is certainly an unusual spin to give a horror film.
Alas, after doing so, The Coffin goes nowhere. The film has an interesting set-up but little idea what to do with it. Ekachai Uekrongtham spends the rest of the film’s running time with two parallel stories of characters being haunted after having undergone the ritual. I did like one scene where Karen Mok is in the bedroom at her friend (Florence Faivre)’s place and her fiance Andrew Lin appears to her, before she learns that he has died in a crash. When she returns with her friend, the friend can see nothing there but when Karen peeps around the frame of the door, she can still see him sitting on the bed.
The rest of the film is one where Ekachai Uekrongtham creates much mood but ultimately a dull film. Despite all of the frequently haunted things happening, none of it ever coalesces into a single frisson that jolts one in their seat with something eerie or unexpected. It feels like a film that is being too nice to ever push its material to anywhere that would get to a genre audience. Moreover, the script never develops its idea much beyond the initial premise. All that happens is the characters undergo a ritual followed by things that keep happening to them, all of which soon blur into a sameness, before it is abruptly realised that they can undergo another ritual to set things aright.
Ekachai Uekrongtham has made several other films. His only other venture into genre material was as a director on the fantasy tv mini-series Halfworlds (2015).