THAILAND 2010 Directed by: Ekkasith Thairatana, Chukiat Sakveerakul, Kongkiat Khomsiri, Phawit Panangkasiri Written by: Ekkasit Thairatana Produced by: Prachya Pinkaew Cast: Akarin Akaranitimetharat, Alexander Rendel, Chanon Rikulsurakann, Thanapon Arrunneth, Patrapisit Sappasawattichod, Alice Toy, ArttanunPiyaserth, Sirikarin Ployong, Janjira Chumneansiri, Ananda Everingham, Peerapol Sehnakol, Thitti Vejchaboon, Pakorn Chatborirak, Thema Kanchanapairin
If certain producers go on like this we will have more omnibus horror movies coming out of Thailand soon than feature films. Here we go again: LUD 4 LUD a.k.a. THE 4 MOVIE is one of the last productions to be finished end of last year and has just hit Thai cinemas in January.
The four segments are directed by writer and first-time director Ekkasith Thairatana, Chukiat Sakveerakul, Kongkiat Khomsiri and Phawit Panangkasiri. Mr. Thairatana’s segment is called CLEAN UP DAY (GRIAN LAANG LOK | เกรียน ล้าง โลก) and is merely an appetizer. The story revolves around a group of guys debating global warming and its causes, leading to the core of the story that identifies humans as the root of all evil and reveals a plot to kill all humans through a lethal virus.
The second film is the sarcastic THE GIFT SHOP FOR THE ONES YOU HATE (RAN KONG KWAN PEUA KON TEE KUN GLIAT | ร้าน ของขวัญ เพื่อ คน ที่ คุณ เกลียด) directed by Kongkiat Khomsiri (SLICE). A white-collar office worker is promoted to be the new manager of his department, but not everyone seems to be delighted. Soon he receives questionable gifts, all obviously sourced from a mysterious shop around the corner of his office called The Gift Shop For The Ones You Hate. Nomen nest omen.
The third entry is directed by Phawit Panangkasiri and called EERIE NIGHTS (KEUN JIT LUT | คืน จิต หลุด): a group of criminals is on the run and hides from the police in an abandoned hospital. There, things get quickly out of hand (literally) with the criminals beginning to fight and a ghost starting to haunt them.
The final episode then is a ghost comedy called HOO AA GONG (ฮู อา กง), telling the story about a Thai-Chinese family that has to watch over the body of the deceased grandfather. The family members feel awkward about the task, and so does the spirit of the grandfather who prefers to be rather active than lying dead in his bed.
Different from other horror anthologies in recent years LUD 4 LUD is mostly straight forward with only a little hint of Buddhist subtexts (as in EERIE NIGHTS) or references to the widespread belief in ghosts a.k.a. spirits. LUD 4 LUD isn’t really much of a horror movie, but mostly plays with our expectations towards the genre while in fact mostly not dealing with any supernatural ingredients at all: only the 4th segment is about real ghosts, while the segments 1-3 are trying to trick the protagonists as well as the audience into believing that something otherworldly is going on, which however is not. Since the last installment is a comedy I am not sure if I shall call THE 4 MOVIE a horror anthology at all.
Out of all entries THE GIFT SHOP FOR THE ONES YOU HATE is clearly the most original, creative and entertaining movie of the pack, leaving the others trailing behind. The first film starts interesting but turns out a lame duck, unsuccessfully trying to blend into the oh-so fashionable environmental debate, while formally kind of copying James Wan’s camera-moves-up-and-down-and-in-and-out-of-a-parking-lot set piece from DEATH SENTENCE. The conclusion then is totally random and renders the rest of the film meaningless.
Mr. Khomsiri’s movie stands out through its inventive idea, good script and proper execution, making it feel like a short feature film rather than a long short and delivering proper dramaturgy and character / story development while finding the right balance between paranoia film and horror-thriller, while embedding his scenario into a context that is very familiar to all of us. It could all happen to you, and that’s why this segment is the most terrifying after all.
The third segment feels too much like an adaptation of NAK PROK (THE SHADOW OF THE NAGA) and disappoints through predictable twists. However, it also features a great Ananda Everingham who looks like he just left the set of RED EAGLE (INSEE DAENG) and some uncomfortable gore (the only real on-screen violence of the quartet that has contributed to the film’s 18+ rating). EERIE NIGHTS is a one-man-show without ghosts, but has a touch of karmic lecture that makes it probably the most meaningful story here.
Lastly, LUD 4 LUD’s only real ghost story makes for a really funny finale, albeit for a stupid-funny one. Don’t expect anything remotely intelligent, HOO AA GONG is just for laughs and as tasteless as it gets, throwing in a big bouquet of masturbation scenes, gay jokes and corpse slapstick. Most of the humor works quite well however, and the ending is the most satisfying one of all films.
LUD 4 LUD is pure entertainment, free of the complexity or intellectual qualities of some of the other omnibus or contemporary horror films from Thailand. If your only concern is having a good time, then there is nothing to worry about.