Next up in my little mini tour of Thai anthology horror films we have a repeat performance from those involve in “4bia” (with a additional Director added). Notice that we have now dropped the horrible and hopeless pun on English, which makes sense as not only was it rubbish, but this time we have 5 stories. Still no phobias involved though. However, is it going to be a case of diminishing returns, with a cheap cash in on the popularity of the first collection? Or maybe mistakes will have been learned from? And again, I am going to be little brief on linking actors and actresses, as with this kind of ensemble piece, life is simply too short.
Phobia 2” opens up with “Novice” in which a young delinquent has been sent to become a Monk to escape punishment for his crimes (he and a friend had a penchant for riding along on their Motorbike and throwing large rocks at passing drivers). This is because, and the film does not make it clear, Monks are somewhat immune to criminal prosecution. Of course there is one thing living as a Monk, and another actually wanting this life, and our angry young man simply does not settle well. He is also constantly haunted by a “Hungry Ghost”, some kind of Thai Spirit. Will he learn is lesson, or will he get his final reward from the afterlife.
I liked this one… eventually. It starts off pretty slowly, and the dislikeable protagonist doesn’t really help. However, once darkness falls and the haunting start, it actually gets really good. There’s at least two moments where the giant ghost is creepy around, vaguely in shot which work brilliantly, and a CGI snake versus lizard scene that is actually quite fantastic (a phrase I didn’t ever expect to write). The back story works well, and for once we actually get a victim who is deserving of his punishment, something a little lacking in the original film.
“Ward” is a tale of a young man hospitalised after a motorcycle accident, leaving both his legs in casts. He is forced to share a room with an old man who is basically brain-dead, simply waiting for his ‘family’ to come pay their final respects. I say family, but he seems to be some kind of religious leader. The young man however, is constantly creeped out by things happening in his room, including visions of the coma patient walking around and attacking him. All of course is not what it seems.
This one I was a little more non-plussed by. Sure, there is a fair amount of tension and traditional scares (especially with the sounds), but I didn’t feel the execution was quite right. The final twist doesn’t feel wholly original, though there is at least one nasty moment that should please people who like to be grossed out. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with the piece, but it is little more than adequate fare.
In “Backpackers” a young Japanese couple who are hitch-hiking around Thailand manage to get a lift with a Lorry Driver and his son. Thing is, what they are delivering is a group of Drug Mules, and they have all died during the journey. They stop, and everything hits the fan, as it becomes Zombie time, 28 Days Later style.
Utterly unoriginal. Utterly fantastic. Easily my favourite of the segments, this is nothing more than a good old fashioned (with a modern take) Zombie chase film. Everything about it has been done before, but it is put together with class. Over all the Phobia franchise, this is the one I would actually pay to see a full length version of.
“Salvage” is all about a woman who sells on cars that have previously been involved in fatal accidents. This might have been ok, but she not only neglects to tell prospective buyers, but is downright untruthful about it. One day however, a customer calls her out on it, and that evening her young son disappears in the parking lot, and she is visited by the ghosts of the victims.
This one was ok, and it actually has the best overall atmosphere and scares. It failed however to really sell itself to me, and the final victim (a complete innocent) may have provided a nasty surprise, but for me it was there more for shock value. It was perfectly reasonable, just didn’t engage me as much as the premise could have done.
Bringing up the rear is “In the End”, in which we get the four characters from “4bia’s” “In the Middle” returning, this time working on a horror film (“Alone 2”, of which the real original is our next review). If you thought the first showing of these characters was meta, things are ramped up a level. The young girl playing the classic “long haired girl ghost” in the film, gets very ill, and she may or may not have died, and returned to finish the film. Which may or may not be the only ghost in the production.
This one I actually liked, although it was a little overlong. Again the script is full of in-jokes, so be aware there are spoiler around. What I liked best is the meta-commentary about what possible twists ghost stories can come up with now – the one in the-film-within-a-film is pretty good, but the actual punch line of this one really is genius. Apart from the length, I do wonder somewhat about this short actually closing the film, it doesn’t feel quite the right way to end the sequence. But a supporting role by Thai/German scream queen Marsha Wattanapanich does enough to win the day for me. But we will talk about her much more next time out.
Overall, I am very shocked to say, I thought “Phobia 2” was a real success, and much better than the previous instalment. Whilst there wasn’t a single entry as good as “Happiness”, the general quality on display was much better, and with “Backpackers” it showed that originality is nice, but just having a damn good story is so much better. The film does lack a certain cohesiveness, with the loss of interconnected moments (you could say that transport is a connecting theme, but it is neither strong, nor the driving force behind the stories). It actually works really well as a double bill, and I am pretty sure all but the most jaded of horror fans would find at least one segment that they could pop in their locker. So, this one gets the Recommended seal!