Running Time: 100'
Producer: Kiathamon Iamphungporn
Director: The Ronin Team
Cast: Napakapapar Nakaprasit, Namo Tongkumnerd, Hataiwan Ngam Sukonpusit
GHOUL RATING: *** (3)
Story: Six youngsters, friends from high school, re-unite two years after graduating in order to pay respects to the deceased father of one of them. They travel to his home, deep in the jungle, but pretty soon forget all about the dead father since their own lives are at stake. One by one they are afflicted by a black magic curse (that's the 'art of the devil' from the title) which makes them die in many colorful ways. Since they're trapped in the shack and its immediate vicinity by surrounding swamps all they can do is run around, scream a lot and accuse one another for various tresspasses from the past. It's payback time now. So, sit back and enjoy making bets as to 'who gets it next and what will be left of them'.
Review: There are at least two good things to be said regarding ART OF THE DEVIL 2. For starters, it's completely unrelated to the dull soap opera with some gore thrown in, known as ART OF THE DEVIL (see the review here). Distancing itself from that half-assed product is certainly a good thing. The second quality: promo materials did not lie! If you were salivating when the first graphic posters appeared, gorier than anything that's allowed in the emasculated USA posters, you'll be happy to know that all of the stuff depicted on them is really in the film. If you were excited by the film's trailer promising some copious torture, I'm glad to inform you that it's really there, in glorious color and in endless sequences which put to shame their western equivalents from SAW or HOSTEL.
Oh, yes, there WILL be blood! And not just the usual red stuff splattering walls; no, friends, the 'Ronin team' is more inventive than that. It took seven directors to come up with the gruesome stuff, and while the film is not seven times better than are those directed by a measly one director, at least it delivers the gore and dismemberment which is its sole purpose. Therefore, expect to see the best, most explicit and prolonged scenes of hooks through skin since HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER 2. Prepare yourself for some non-traditional Thai food with human flesh in 'chicken' broth, face boiled on the stove and raw-meat diet (both human and animal). Look forward to some nail-clipping and teeth extraction (both with pliers). Learn the customs of different cultures: see an unorthodox teacher punishing his students for drinking after school (the moral lesson actually becomes oral). Learn some new ways of revenge via always handy old wise men who place curses for money. See exotic animals, like baby-crocodiles, emerge through a man's skin (the posters promised some centipedes and other creepy-crawlies too, but the 'Ronin team' decided that some restraint in this regard might be called for).
But don't worry, there's nothing resembling restraint in the final scenes in which a wicked lady goes Anne Wilkes on a poor guy's ass, providing much MISERY and pain. Her methods include a syringe in the neck, blow-torch depilation of hairy legs and harsh-cloth removal of scorched skin. If you're worried that none of this will provide your money's worth of splatter and torture, let me assure you that there is also some self-inflicted eye-gouging, sharp-stick impalement, decapitation, shots in the head and then some.
That's the meat of this film, and that's all that should matter. The acting is barely competent, but at least the teenagers are not in their early thirties as they usually are in American horrors. The script has its problems: after too many flashbacks in the beginning it takes awhile to get things going with uninteresting 'characters' and shallow 'drama', while the ending piles up so many 'unexpected' twists you'll stop caring long before the last one. Technical credits are all around passable, even decent, although not much above average in any way. The flick is well shot and competently scored, but nothing exceptional there. Make up effects are the main asset, and luckily, most of them are very good, done on the set, with a minimum use of CGI (mostly in the baby-crocodiles scene).
Essentially, the tiny plot is a variation of classic Hong Kong sleazefests (CENTIPEDE HORROR, DEVIL FOETUS, KILLER SNAKES and, of course, BLACK MAGIC 1 and 2) where copious vermins crawls out of black-magic infested bodies: worms, snails, snakes, centipedes, bugs etc. are vomited forth in order to animate otherwise silly 'plots'. This concept is added some local flavor (Cambodian curses, for example) and then superficially modernized by adding some teen nonsense derived from the likes of I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER. It's quite obvious that no one is going to watch this expecting great story or serious drama, or even spooks and scares. ART OF THE DEVIL 2 proudly and unashamedly wears its cheeziness on its sleeve, and should be commended for being honest in its attempts to deliver some imaginative shocks and disgust. It is what it is, and if this kind of thing appeals to you, you'll swallow it hooks and all.
DVD [ NTSC, Region 1 ] : Good, sharp image in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), atrocious English dub available in 5.1. and 2.0. and (recommended) Thai in 2.0. with decent subtitles and extras. The latter consist of a 'making of' segment, which repeats a lot of scenes from the film and mostly deals with actors, while as another extra you can enjoy the trailers for this film, as well as those for the original ART OF THE DEVIL, GARUDA, DEATH TRANCE and ZATOICHI (TV). The package comes in a regular plastic one, placed in a carton slipcase: they have different covers, thus sporting more gruesomeness than a single cover could. All in all, this is a good presentation of a must-have flick for any self-respecting gorehound. Others, beware.