9 WAT a.k.a. SECRET SUNDAY a.k.a. 9 TEMPLES [9 วัด]

http://www.9watthemovie.com

THAILAND 2010  Directed & Written by: Saranyu Jiralaksanakul  Produced by: Sirippakorn Wongchariyawat Cast: Siraphan Wattanajinda, James Alexander, Paradorn Sirakowit, Penpak Sirikul

Karma is like a bloodhound. It will always find you.

It is common practice in Thailand for some people at some time to go on a journey to visit 9 Temples and make merit (hence the original Title 9 WAT – I am still not sure who came up with SECRET SUNDAY as this international title does not relate to the film at all). Many go on the journey around Sonkran, the Thai new year, and it’s of course no coincidence that the film opened on the auspicious April 13th, despite that being a Tuesday and an irregular day for any film to start in cinemas.

In 9 WAT three people are more or less willingly going on that journey to do good and return home cleansed and with a pure heart and mind: Nat, a young designer who his mother sends on the journey; Poon, his girlfriend who comes along as they will visit his mother on the way to Chiang Mai; and a young monk who needs a lift as he is going on a pilgrimage.

The reason for Nat and Poon to go and visit nine temples despite them being not exactly into Buddhism is that they are recently haunted by ghosts – just like Nat’s mother who wants her son to go. Soon even the monk will see ghosts, but it is not until the end of 9 WAT that they (and we) will understand why they are haunted and how their karma is related far beyond their worldly relationships. A shocking truth awaits the three of them, but the way to discover the truth is equally scary and filled with dark visions and very real threats waiting around every corner of the winding road into the Thai mountains.

9 WAT looks like your average Thai horror flick if you take the promotion materials as a benchmark, but it turns out to be a continuation of recent milestones like HA PHRAENG and also TAAI HONG that are fundamentally dealing with Buddhist beliefs and the question of how to lead a good life.

9 WAT quintessentially is a film about karma and how it impacts our lives, previous lives or the afterlife. Apart from karma being beyond human comprehension and its ways not always being rational or logical the way we’d expect them to be, karma also fundamentally defines how people are related as well as the karma between them is a unique cycle that cannot be interrupted or changed without consequence.

So don’t expect the movie to serve you shocks by the minute or blood and gore galore. Yes, 9 WAT is scary, yes, it’s a bit gross, but it is also another good example of horror that works particularly well within a specific context: it should be working best for people who grew up with and believe in Buddhism and related beliefs, whereas 9 WAT will probably be less scary for people who do not know much about the Buddhist religion. In comparison, however, 9 WAT is by far more effective than NANG NAK (Saranyu Jiralaksanakul was the assistant director back then) that bored the shit out of me and didn’t work for me at all.

A couple of key features help 9 WAT to make it to the finish line. First of all it’s a movie about karma and beliefs packaged like a horror movie. So the message and the story are more important than the special effects. Then, it’s a horror movie told as a road movie what gives the film quite a different mood and tone. Furthermore it features a small, but convincing cast and very intimate atmosphere that is also reflected in its visual style. Hence the film is beautifully shot and at times looks almost too poetic and personal (like a photo album photographed in lomo fashion), making us forget about the terrifying images we just saw minutes ago.

The cathartic ending of 9 WAT is happening fast and with little warning. It is not entirely satisfying, but reasonable enough to not render the script pointless. The movie takes a looong time to get there though and for many it may not be worth the wait. Thinking of it, the journey is an essential part of 9 WAT and I think we just have to roll with it. Just like the characters we learn a lot about karma and ourselves on the road to Chiang Mai; it’s pretty much like we’re in the car with them.

9 WAT, sometimes eclectic but mostly original is not for hardcore horror movie buffs, but is for those who like good cinema without thinking about genre labels. 9 WAT doesn’t achieve greatness but is cementing Thailand’s position as producer of some of the most interesting and creative “horror” movies.

While some of the big names in horror have disappointed us lately some of the Thai movies have proven to be fresh, frightening, funny and fabulously entertaining. HA PHRAENG was the best horror movie of 2009 as far as I am concerned, and with a continuous output of high quality material like 9 WAT I wouldn’t be surprised if 2010 is another top vintage for the Thai film industry.

9 WAT is not the goal yet, but it’s an important part of the journey.

J.


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One Response to “9 WAT a.k.a. SECRET SUNDAY a.k.a. 9 TEMPLES [9 วัด]”

  1. PAD THAI: SECRET SUNDAY [9 WAT | 9 วัด] « GONIN MOVIE BLOG Says:

    […] UPDATE: PLEASE FIND THE COMPLETE REVIEW HERE: https://goninmovieblog.wordpress.com/2010/04/15/9-wat-secret-sunday/ […]

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