Saturday, January 3, 2009

4bia (Youngyooth Thongkonthun, Paween Purikitpanya, Banjong Pisanthanakun, Parkpoom Wongpoom, 2008)

Maneerat Kham-uan in the first segment of 4bia (2008).

Thai horror anthology consisting of four stories by different directors, among them the duo behind Shutter (2004) and Alone (2007), Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom. The other two are Paween Purikitpanya and Youngyooth Thongkonthun. The four stories all deliver different kind of scares, everything from Ring-like atmosphere, ghosts, psychological terror, bullying, black magic and gore.

The first part, Happiness, is about a girl, Pin, isolated in her apartment with a broken leg after a traffic accident. One night she starts recieving text messages on her phone from someone she doesn't know. It turns out that it's a guy and Pin gets curious. After a while the messages turns more and more menacing until she recieves one that says that the guy is standing outside her building. This is by far the scariest of the four tales and it does it purely through creating a creepy atmosphere and a great performance from Maneerat Kham-uan as the lonely girl, there is no dialogue except for the text messages. Happiness was directed by Youngyooth Thongkonthun.

Part two, Tit for Tat, was directed by Paween Purikitpanya. It deals with the bullying of a school boy by a group of delinquents. When he accidentaly causes them to get caught by the teachers smoking weed the abuse gets even worse. The boy decides to get back at his tormentors through black magic and he puts a curse on them. While Tit for Tat starts off good enough, the ending is ruined by the introduction of CG creatures that just look out of place and it turns into a case of showing too much. It is the goriest of the lot and has the most inventive deaths but it still skimps on both blood and scares.

The third part is directed by Banjong Pisanthanakun, one of the men behind Shutter and In the Middle is full of references to the director's earlier film, one character even spoils the ending for it. In the Middle is a ghost story set in the jungle where four guys have travelled for some river rafting. In their tent at night, they are telling ghost stories and one of them promises that if he dies he will come back and haunt the person sleeping in the middle. Take a guess what happens. At the same time as it is criticizing modern horror films for being all the same, the long haired female ghosts and what not, it does the exact same thing but with a guy as the ghost. While not being exactly scary, In the Middle is very enjoyable in an 80's B-horror kind of way, just like Shutter. Good fun.

The Last Fright is the weakest of the bunch. A flight attendant, Pim, is having an affair with a prince from another country. When the prince's wife is demanding her presence on a flight she is forced to go by her boss. On the plane, it turns out the princess knows all about the affair and she does her best to make Pim's life miserable. Pim decides to get back at her and manages to kill the princess and is then stuck with transporting her corpse back to her relatives on another flight. It turns out, though, that the princess is a restless spirit and she is not very happy with Pim. The Last Fright feels too predictable and overlong. Right from the start you know where it's going and the director, Parkpoom Wongpoom, fails to build any kind of suspense and because of that the frights don't really play out well. It does have a few moments that make you jump, but as a finale it fizzles.

4bia is still very entertaining and at times very scary. With the parts in a different order, building up an overall sense of horror, it might have worked better. But as is it's a great time for the first three quarters and then a drawn out letdown. Still recommended though as the best asian horror since Shutter.