Siam Afraid... Siam VERY Afraid


4bia - 2008
See link for Writing & Directing credits

4bia, or Phobia is a Thai anthology of (get this) FOUR short tales of terror, each from a different creative team. Two of the stories come from the directors (and one from a producer) who made the intensely creepy Shutter (2004) and Alone (2007) which was all I needed to bring me to 4bia.

There were three main things that I noticed in 4bia.  First, that 20 to 30 minutes is a really good length for horror.  Where yesterday's ABCs of Death 2 gave its directors a fairly restrictive four to six minutes, 20 to 30 minutes, obviously, gave creators a lot more room to move around and develop stories.  The next observation is that 20 to 30 minutes can also be an improvement over having too much time to fill.  Alone and (especially) Shutter struggled to maintain momentum through a full-length feature and dragged out moments and scenes that didn't necessarily enhance their tales.  Brevity demands focus, and the films that make up 4bia are well-served by the removal of any obligation to fill time.  The third thing is cultural.  The films in 4bia are earnest and never resort to Cryptkeeper-y winking at the viewer, even when they twist at the end.  The premise here is fear, and the directors by-and-large deliver.

The first story is Happiness which focuses on a lonely young woman, housebound thanks to a recent auto accident that left her in a huge leg cast.  The tedium of her solitude is broken up when she receives a text message from a mysterious stranger.  The text messages would have gotten unbearable in a full-length feature, but time constraints force the story to get to the point.

Tit for Tat is an aggressive tale of revenge upon high school bullies.  Again, giving it more time would not have done it any particular favors.  The shocking conclusion arrived right on time, mercifully cutting short its use of outdated-by-American-standards CGI.  In fact, it was the ending that really paid off the rest of the story.  I might have preferred for them to have better established one of the plot points related to it, but it's also possible that its impact just wasn't adequately represented by the subtitles.

In The Middle follows four teenage boys on a tragic camping trip in the jungle.  I really enjoyed their interplay.  They were probably the best developed characters in any segment.  The story wasn't as well developed, throwing in a twist that deserved better supporting hints.

One of the boys from In The Middle was the brother of a flight attendant, which explains why Pim is working a chartered flight for Princess Sophia by herself in Last Fright.  She and the other attendant had attended a chartered flight for the couple a year before, and now Pim is left alone with the disdainful princess, but why?  This was probably the scariest segment of the bunch, taking full advantage of the vagary between the supernatural and the psychological uncertainty of guilt and fear.

4bia is a remarkably solid horror anthology.  Sure, it's still uneven, but that's just another word for variety in this case.  It's a great introduction to Thai horror if you haven't yet discovered this thriving niche.  For my own part, I will be checking out Phobia 2 (what, no 5bia?) and other Bangywood fare.  The Land of Smiles definitely knows a thing or two about screams.

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