Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Haeman Chatemee's Body Jumper (2001) & Nasorn Panungkasiri's Six (2004)

Here's a Thai horror super-duper double feature film review, pitting Haeman Chatmee's Body Jumper (2001) against Nasorn Panungkasiri's Six (2004). No, just kidding. I just recently re-watched both films, and while I still enjoyed one and still disliked the other, both films gave me the opportunity to talk about some trends in recent horror in cinema everywhere, not necessarily just in Thailand. While I'm at it, I'll give my two cents on these two Thai flicks.
Body Jumper is a comedy with horrific overtones or a horror movie with comedic overtones. Either way it's a terrific, jumbled mess of a film. The film opens with the deaths of local men in a small village. An exorcism is held and the ghost who perpetrated the murders is contained. Later, a group of volunteer students arrive at the village, and while providing aid, one young female student becomes possessed by the evil spirit: succubus-like Pob, who has an appetite for sex and eating the livers of her male lovers. Her friends attempt to help her by seeking the services of a "ghostbuster" and taking on the spirit at a school dance. Body Jumper's plot is a thin framework for an absurd group of set pieces. The film's humor goes for the gross-out jokes, seemingly inspired by teen-comedies such as Bob Clark's Porky's (1981) and Jeff Kanew's Revenge of the Nerds (1984) and Troma efforts, like Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz's The Toxic Avenger (1984). In one scene, possessed Gir with her fist attempts to score a liver from the back entrance of a victim, and the camera accompanies her fist to his innards, as she grabs organs and gives each a squeeze. In another, Gir is treated to a literal liver dinner at a posh restaurant. The wonderfully awful visual effects show her tongue swing to lick her plate clean, while her date keeps dropping his fork to look under the table at her underwear. There's even an in-joke from famous and excellent, Bangkok Dangerous (1999), that is also ridiculous and outlandish. However, all of the jokes work, even when the transvestite member of the group tells a story about a student and a snail. Superficially, nothing is done very well in Body Jumper. The acting, the visual effects, the script, etc. are all poor. However, the film plays like a symphony of bad notes in perfect harmony. The film doesn't take itself seriously, so neither does the viewer. It's perfect B-cinema, and I cannot imagine my cinematic life without it. I have a fondness for cinematic cheese and usually give it a lot of critical slack, quite possibly because there are so many recent horror and comedy films that shoot for mediocre as its goal and fall short of the mark. I love it when directors like Haeman Chatemee make a film as if it is going to be his last and just let it all hang out with gusto.So what about the films that shoot for a serious horrific tone and completely miss the mark? Nasorn Panungkasiri's Six is one of that caliber. Six friends meet for two of its members' birthday. One is pretty Fah (Intira Jaroenpura) whose been feeling really down lately. A friend breaks out a tarot deck and reveals that Fah is suffering misfortune because of a past life, but another friend, Khan (Ray MacDonald) thinks that's a lot of crap. Khan makes a challenge: prove the existence of ghosts or shut up about it forever. The six make the trip to an old mansion, with six coffins in its basement, and engage in seances and oujia games.
At around a hundred minutes, Six doesn't simmer but stalls. No climax will be satisfactory after this build-up. Panungkasiri goes for subtle and atmospheric, which is admirable, instead of in-your-face and visceral. To meticulously craft and attempt to manipulate the viewer (in an interesting way) is a more difficult task for a filmmaker, because he/she is relying upon the fewest of tools to make an impact. For example. Hideo Nakata executed subtle and atmospheric in The Ring (1998) nearly perfectly, topped himself in Chaos (1999), and ended up burying himself in Dark Water (2002). To be fair, looking at Dark Water as a drama instead of horror will produce a different result. More than likely, the difficulty of this type of filmmaking is one of the reasons few atmospheric films are being made today. Six would have benefitted from its participants loosening up and having a little fun. Creating a balance in tone in film is also a difficult task but it is one which I would like to see a lot more in cinema. I think a lot of viewers would agree with me.

1 comment:

Mr.LargePackage said...

Cinematic cheese is large and in charge.