Country: Thailand

Genre: Horror

Running Time: 108'


Monthon Arayangkoon

Cast: Pitchanart Sakakorn, Apasiri Nitibhon, Penpak Sirikul, Kiradej Ketakinta, Chokchai Charoensuk




Story: Ting is a young actress asked by the police to help them by re-enacting the crimes (in the role of the victim). She takes part in re-enactments when the criminals are already caught, which are staged for the media (this seems to be an actual practice in Thailand, supposedly to show off the efficiency of the law and uselessness of the path of crime). Ting makes an extra effort not to offend spirits of the crime victims, and they start paying back by giving hints about their destinies. In one case it seems that the real culprit was not found, so it's up to Ting to do the right thing...

Review: THE VICTIM is a Thai horror film. How many thoughtful, intelligent ones have you seen coming from that country? There's (almost!) none that I recall. At their best they tend to attain the level of a solidly put mindless entertainment. At their best! Thai horrors are usually derivative, gimmicky, shallow, infantile, overly melodramatic and soap-operatic, and only occasionally do they manage to ape the motifs and imagery from their superior Asian cinematic brethren sufficiently to induce a chill or two. If you're not too picky, you'll get just that in THE VICTIM – and nothing more.

THE VICTIM is a typical representative of horrors from Thailand: instead of characters you get two-dimensional cardboard types; instead of plot you get a series of randomly arranged gimmicks; instead of drama you get melodrama; instead of suspense you get twists (the more 'unexpected' and illogical – the better!); instead of horror you get tiresome 'boo!' scares and cheap imitations of yet another Sadako clone. And, last but not least: instead of originality you get – contrivance. (With all due respect to rare exceptions to this rule, like THE DORM, soon to be reviewed here.)

The greatest contrivance in this film happens at its middle mark (a SPOILER follows: if you still have hopes for this film, skip this paragraph): just when you start caring for the silly plot, the makers wisely decide to surprise you with that age-old hateful gimmick: 'it was all only a movie!' Yes, folks, the first 48 minutes of the flick are actually a film within the film. If at that point you do not feel too betrayed to go on, you'll have to re-invest your thoughts and emotions into a wholly new plot. Yes, it is related to what preceded it, but further development only discredits the few qualities existent in the first half, without offering any new ones. Actually, in the second half THE VICTIM turns to the worse, and ends with another shoulder-shrugging 'So what?' twist.

There are so many possibilities inherent to this particular plot, and THE VICTIM doesn't care for any of them. If examination of the horror genre's tropes (a la NEW NIGHTMARE, or SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE) are way above the heads of THE VICTIM's makers, how about a look into the mind frame of a person who would act as the victim at a crime scene, with the culprit present? Oh, sorry, that's too serious, too. They don't want no drama, all they want is to spook out the audience and that's that. Well, that's a valid ambition in itself – as long as the makers are able to achieve it. THE VICTIM's main problem is not that it's not as clever or complex as it could've been. Its major malfunction is that it's just not scary nor entertaining enough.

How could it be, if its director lacks the ability to measure and edit a horror scene properly? The sense of timing is one of the most precious talents a horror director can have, and Monthon Arayangkoon sorely lacks it. All of his horror scenes last longer than they need, thus undermining their effect. Most obvious example of his lack of subtlety is a scene in the first half, in which Ting has an encounter of the spooky kind in a corridor. First of all, Mr. Arayangkoon feels that meeting just one single Sadako-inspired, face-covered-with-black-hair ghost is not enough, so he peoples the scene with a dozen more of blue-faced spooks reaching toward Ting. Then he stretches the scene with far too many shot/countershots of Ting vs. The Ghost, way too many camera set-ups than really needed – probably trying to milk the scene for all its worth, but instead turning it into a ridiculous self-parody that can scare only the most pronounced simpletons.

It certainly doesn't help that Mr. Arayangkoon can't think of anything better than to shamelessly copy the tired RINGU/GRUDGE clichés, some of which include: ghosts (otherwise unseen), captured on camera just as in the far superior SHUTTER; frozen-scream ashen faces of victims, as seen in RINGU and its numerous clones; ghostly hands crawling slowly across the floor towards the victim; invisible ghosts swaying around people and not doing much, as in THE EYE; and the inevitable despicable variation on the old 'it was all only a movie!' device, which says: 'it was all only a dream!' You know the drill: something scary happens. Boo! 'It was all only a dream!' You wake up, go to the bathroom. Something scary is in the mirror. Boo! You wake up again. 'It was all only a dream!' And so on. And on. And on.


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