I'm closing out "Anthoholic," my week of horror anthologies with a double feature of sequels (sort of) to movies discussed previously in the week. I really never expected to watch this many anthologies, but the two that I most enjoyed, 4BIA and Three... Extremes both had sequels (again; sort of) so that encouraged me to extend the feature-within-a-feature. But honestly, let's get this thing over with already. I'm ready to get sick of werewolves.
Phobia 2 - 2009
see link for complete writing & directing credits
Now me, I like the ghost stories, and evidently Thailand does too because their horror movies tend to skew heavily toward creepy tales of haunting. As such, we have gotten along just fine so far. Granted, I largely have the directing team of Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom to thank for this. Their films Shutter and Alone are top-notch spookers, and they seem to be the heart of the group responsible for the previously discussed 4BIA (Phobia) and its sequel Phobia 2 (which I still call 5BIA for my own enjoyment and no one else's). Phobia 2 has five stories to the four from 4BIA, thus enhancing the impression that it should be called 5BIA. Many of the other segment directors in 4BIA and 5BIA were producers on Shutter and/or Alone as well, so it would appear to be a tight-knit group. Now, on with the show...
So our young man, Pe, is dropped off with the monks, shorn of his hair, and not altogether happy about the situation, but even less happy about what he's done. The monk's diet is a light one, and Pe gets the pangs at night, when the monks are specifically forbidden from eating. He remembers a place in the forest where offerings have been left for some restless neighborhood ghosts and eats some of the food despite the admonitions and interference of a senior monk. Sure enough, this theft stirs the ire of the spirits, and Pe finds himself caught between the vengeful nature of the haunting spirits, and the haunting guilt upon his conscience.
Like Novice, Ward is about a young man who has a strange spiritual encounter with monks and Buddhist cosmology. Arthit, our young man, was in a motorcycle accident (thus the opening sounds) and is in the hospital recovering. The room he's placed in is already occupied by a comatose old monk who is expected to die soon. A group of other monks come to visit and make final arrangements, suggesting that the old monk is highly revered. Then, he starts haunting Arthit, before he's even dead.
I so want to tell you the twist and discuss all its implications, but I'd feel terrible about myself if I spoiled it for you. Suffice to say that it makes Ward a pretty unique story of haunting that really highlights what is special about being exposed to other cultures' spiritual perspectives in international horror.
The drivers stop to check the back of the truck, ordering their passengers to stay put. They find that the back of the truck is full of dead bodies, which is at least one thing that neither of them expected. After dragging them out of the truck, the younger man cuts into the stomach of one body (a lovely scene involving strawberry jam) to retrieve what is now a burst condom of drugs. This is about the time where the backpackers have had enough of this shit, sneak out of the cab and manage to get their hands on the one gun available. They get the drop on the drivers, but rather unexpectedly, one of the bodies behind him gets up and takes a bite out of the Japanese boy's neck. For you see, this is not a ghost story, but a zombie story.
It's not a particularly original zombie story, but hey, for Thailand, it's just not as well covered ground. it ends as (apparently) zombie stories must; with the hopeless promise of worse to come.
Salvage is a pretty straight ghost tale with some disturbing imagery. I had a pretty good idea how it would end and I wasn't wrong, but that didn't make it any easier to take when it came. Gyah.
When the actress playing the ghost girl comes down ill during shooting, they guys argue about coming up with a new "twist" ending, thus riffing on horror conventions including the twist in their own segment in 4BIA and setting up the series of twists that will close out their story here. I just loved the crap out of this one. It definitely won't be AS funny if you're not familiar with at least 4BIA, but it doesn't hurt to have seen Alone and Shutter too (which is just good advice in general). It's only a tiny bit scary, but that's so not the point, and I'm grateful to Pisanthanakun for making that choice. The cast have incredible chemistry, and I would gladly watch anything this team decided to do together. [As a matter of fact, it looks like they DO reunite in a film called Pee Mak directed by Pisanthanakun, which is classified as a horror/comedy/romance and already sits in my film queue. Can't wait!]
And now for a somewhat less enthusiastic endorsement (but stick with it 'cause we're going somewhere)...
Three (AKA 3 Extremes II) - 2002
see link for complete writing & directing credits
Yesterday, I wrote about the brilliant Three... Extremes, which was actually the sequel to this, known originally as Three. However when Extremes turned out to something of a minor sensation stateside, the company then released the original Three as a sort-of sequel, calling it Three Extremes II, which is really pretty easy to do given the anthological nature of the films. Extremes employed some big-name directors, where Three's talents are somewhat less big, as are the results. Again, we have three directors from three different Asian nations. This time it's Kim Jee-Woon (Tale of Two Sisters, The Good The Bad and The Weird and the brutal & amazing I Saw the Devil) from Korea with Memories, Nonzee Nimibutr from Thailand with The Wheel, and Peter Chan (producer of The Eye) with Going Home. Strap in. It's going to be a bumpy ride.
What it is is something altogether unexpected, and the tale that unfolds is both creepy and deeply moving. This easily could have been a feature on its own, with an expanded interplay between the two men, and a lot more attention to what happened to the children in the meantime. "Heartbreaking" isn't a term we often have reason to use in relation to horror movies. Going Home makes the case that it really should be.