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DVD Review

DVD cover



Starring: Laila Boonyasak, Maneerat Kham-uan and Apinya Sakuljaroensuk
Icon Home Entertainment
RRP: £12.99
Certificate: 18
Available 10 May 2010

Utilising a similar idea to Japan's Three Extremes films, Phobia brings together four of Thailand's young and promising directors to showcase their abilities - each helming one of a quartet of separate but loosely linked segments. In Yongyoot Thongkongtoon's Happiness, a young woman behind on her rent feels trapped in her small, run-down apartment after a road accident leaves her leg in a heavy cast. She feels lonely. Her only connection with the outside world is a mobile phone, so when she starts to receive text messages from a male stranger she is pleased. However, the messages become increasingly creepy, and the mysterious male is coming to her apartment. What's unusual about this story is there's no dialogue. It does create a feeling of unease, but is let down by it's easily predictable conclusion.

In Paween Purikitpanya's Tit For Tat, a student finds himself the constant victim of a cruel group of school bullies. When it reaches the point of being tied-up and thrown from the back of a moving vehicle, the student seeks retribution with black magic. When each gang member in turn sees a particular page from an ancient book, it leads to an instant and bloody death. However, one female member has her own extreme method of avoiding the inevitable. This is very artfully directed, but having said that is probably the weakest of the bunch. The pace is frantic and the scenes a little chaotic. It's saving grace is the unexpected modes of death, which borrows from Dead Like Me, and Final Destination.

Things really start to warm up with Banjong Pisanthanakun's In The Middle. The director of Shutter has four young men embarking on a camping and white water rafting holiday. It begins with one of their number reciting an urban myth ghost story one night in their tent. The next day tragedy strikes as they are all pitched into the rushing river and one of them goes missing. When he turns up late that night, the others are pleased but suspicious. Something isn't right, and events seem to be following the myth. But there's an unexpected twist just around the corner. This tale is very enjoyable. The characters are likeable, and the corresponding actors' performances effortlessly carry off funny, scared, and creepy reactions. The balance is good, and the plot doesn't go in the direction you would first expect.

The best is definitely saved until last. In Parkpoom Wongpoom's Last Flight, a personally requested lone stewardess plays hostess to a single VIP passenger. The princess proves more than difficult - to the point of being vindictive, so when she demands the stewardess's own meal, what she gets is a cheap reheated dish containing shrimps, to which she is allergic. When the princess falls ill and dies, the stewardess has to watch over the body on the return flight - setting up an intensely eerie edge-of-the-seat viewing experience. Being hardened to the effects of horror films by the sheer number I've seen, it's not very often that the hairs raise on the back of my neck. But it happened during the last segment. It's very atmospheric and claustrophobic, reminding me a little of The Twilight Zone episode, Nightmare At 20,000 Feet, written by Richard Matheson.

The pecking order is spot on here, as the stories increasingly improve in strength. It just wouldn't have worked quite so well in any other order. I like the short story format; the tales are tighter and more powerful. Although the segments are linked, it's tenuous to say the least, and really isn't necessary. They stand on their own merit. We haven't had much of this sort of thing since Tales of Japan. More please.


Ty Power

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