2005 [THAI]

Drama / Horror

IMDb Rating 5.0 10 1231

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Plot summary

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May 27, 2022 at 05:50 PM


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962.04 MB
Thai 2.0
25 fps
1 hr 44 min
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1.93 GB
Thai 5.1
25 fps
1 hr 44 min
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Chris_Docker 6 / 10

Showgirls meets Hammer Horror?

Showgirls meets Hammer Horror? There would be many ways to dismiss this British Thai movie, set in a seedy Bangkok go-go bar, and whose heroine turns into a nasty flesh-eating monster. Mainstream it's not, but for lovers of trashy independents it offers something of a curious mix that is almost a collector's item.

(The title of the film translates apparently as 'Ghost'; as a pun to fun-loving Thai viewers, P-Bar sounds like the Thai word for 'loony'.) Aaw is a nice pubescent girl in rural Thailand, doing her best to look after ailing grandmom. Granny is a white witch and passes on her magic to Aaw just in case it ever comes in handy. The rural photography is beautiful, especially when we consider the film was made on a budget of £180,000. The familiar tale of young girl hoodwinked into moving to the big city to support her elderly relative is part of Thailand's cultural malaise. She gets roped into prostitution of course, and it isn't long before she starts using the 'special powers' Grandma taught her.

Up to this point there is no serious suggestion of any horror elements. Ordinary Thai people tend to believe in magic as a day to day fact, even if they are devout Buddhists, and all we have seen is a pastoral tale, embellished with well-researched superstition and embroidered with lingering detail of initiation into the girlie bar trade.

Director Paul Spurrier spent five years working on the story to ensure that the seemingly trite details were authentic - research that apparently included not only looking into magic traditions but plenty of time interviewing sex workers to understand how they operate (he even cameos in the film as a bar owner). Some of the tales he told me after the film's Edinburgh Film Festival UK Premiere were both sad in their simplicity and amusing in their unexpectedness. A girl had told him how her clients had increased from 4 in a month to 30 the next month after she had gone back home to consult the shamen. The actual witchdoctor in the film was based on a character he met in N.E. Thailand; after answering many, many questions, the witchdoctor grabbed Paul's arm, pulling him ominously into the jungle, saying, "I have done something for you, now you must do something for me!" As the barefooted film director stumbled to keep up, the gravely stones underneath biting into his feet, the shamen looked up in surprised glee - "I always wanted to know that! I had been told that Westerners' feet are soft, and hurt when they walk barefoot in the forest! Now I know!" At one point in the making of the film, the director made himself unpopular with the local madam after asking one of the girls (who was about to go on a recruiting expedition) why she was happily misleading people in the way that she, years earlier, had been misled. Some critics have dwelt on the morality of the film, saying it is both exploitative and lukewarm in its condemnation. While that might be true, the madam answered, "You only hear from girls who think they've been tricked. You don't hear from the hundreds of girls who find rich western husbands working here and go on abroad to marry. I don't hear them complaining." Then there was the go-go girl who asked for a copy of the movie "to send back home to mom, as I don't have any nice pictures to show her where I work." Spurrier was ambivalent when questioned. He thought it was sad that girls were drawn into such a life, but that it was a fact of life for many, just like the magic traditions. It is also a backdrop for the story rather than a moral axe to grind, whether in protest or condoning.

The strange part is the sudden shift of genre into horror. There is no extensive use of CGIs - it tries, if anything, to remain true to the country's tradition (Thailand has about ten new ghost story films a year). It's simplicity recalls not only many other Asian attempts at horror but also early British films where we know the blood is not very real but choose to overlook such facts. That the abrupt change works quite well is a credit to the movie, reminding us more of the masterly film Audition than say the overladen From Dusk Till Dawn. Something evil has been growing inside of Aaw, because she has ignored the rules her grandmother taught her and she is becoming a puppet of the black magic she uses too readily. The transition from nightmares and drug-induced paranoia to the manifestation of evil is understated. Just as the sex-trade is accompanied by typical Thai modesty (no bare bosoms), the horror is shocking but not too shocking, almost as if it is meant to be 'entertaining' rather than genuinely upsetting.

The shortfalls are the derivative story lines, the overlong details of how to work in a go-go bar (especially when all the women look and sound almost identical) and the fact that this Thai-style, British-made movie is not well aimed at any easily identifiable western market (other, perhaps, than DVD). The light-hearted humour (girls exchanging insulting comments about a customer in Thai whilst giving the unsuspecting customer adoring glances and tones, or the giggly exchanges of how to butter-up a Westerner), and the fact that it is the first Thai horror film made by a British director, may endear it to all lovers of light-hearted gore. Most films seek either great artistic acclaim or the hugest profits possible; Spurrick may simply be someone who wants to earn a living as a filmmaker in Thailand. P won't make him a fortune, but it might make him enough to fund the next episode in what could even become a cult niche.

Reviewed by Boris-57 9 / 10

Surprisingly beautiful film, not just your typical horror flick. The lead is great!

*** first & last paragraphs are without spoilers ***

At first sight the story's your pretty basic demon possession thing (P is the transliteration of the Thai word for Ghost). What made the film stand out however was the setting. The whole thing is seen from the perspective of an innocent girl forced to leave the countryside to look for money in Bangkok, where she loses touch with her past as she gets caught up in the Thai sex industry - and goes downhill (some have suggested a metaphor for drugs, but I think there are various paths leading downhill in the Thai sex industry). She refuses to accept her fate however, but her energy flows to her dark side, which soon darkens just a deeper shade of red...

More specific (***massive spoilers down here*** - for a summary go to the final paragraph) :

The opening scenes in rural Thailand where Aaw grows up in all innocence learning witchcraft from her grandmother are really full of supernatural promise in the nature of the place itself. It also sets the main character well - she's considered a freak by her peers, but fails to really rise above it, which makes her vulnerable to herself - shown by the fact that she's angry when pushed in the mud, after which a demon tries to grab her in the water; or that, when older, she scares three small kids spying on her (nicely mirroring what's about to follow). In order to pay for her sick grandmother, she has to move to Bangkok before she manages to complete her witchcraft skills. In other words, the classic - all power, but no strong enough will yet.

The action moves to the P Bar in Bangkok, where some of the most painful scenes take place, as Aaw gradually loses her old self - she is given a new name, Dau; she loses her virginity. Awkward to see, where Paul Spurrier plays the virgin loving sex industry white (very convincingly). The scene is brought so tenderly and subdued that it is all the more hurting. Very well done too (helped by the soundtrack) is the first floor show in the bar, which Spurrier manages to film in an entirely non-erotic way, but instead making the dancing poles look like a jail in which the women are meat. In fact, the whole film at this point could well be a social commentary thing with some very good cinematography.

Things for Dau then take a turn for the worse as she starts to use her magic on whoever hurts her, starting with Spurrier who gets punishment in a very fitting way. Next however is her rival at the club. Her "accident" is really great. Some good gore though very little is shown. But Dau fails to respect three sacred rules to obey when one uses black magic, thus opening her heart to... evil! - thereby gradually losing her final bit of self. The fact that her first error occurs when she acknowledges her feelings for her roommate Pookie (also a very good actress), is rather dubious I think.

Then the film loses a bit of the atmosphere that set it out from your usual ghost flick, as Dau turns into a straight vampire (actually a phii borb - a classic organ-eating Thai ghost) and goes butchering white sex tourists and whoever stands in her way - some nice gore at times, and organ-diving might become a national sport. The beginning of it, where it's still unclear whether it's real or not, is well done, but towards the end, while the film never loses momentum, the story seems a bit lost. Especially the final solution reminded me of the original Exorcist, i.e. the exorcist dies himself, and the real salvation is brought by someone letting the demon go inside and then killing herself.

The end is rather depressing - she's alive, but without demon all her rebellion against her situation is gone and the final scene shows her doing a genuinely erotic but soulless floor show - Aaw gone forever and Dau to live the miserable life of meat for sale. What I found a bit disturbing is (though this certainly couldn't have been Spurrier's intention) that the whole film can be seen as "try to resist the fate the Thai sex industry has installed for you just causes a real mess, so you'd better keep that demon calm and accept your karma and swing around that pole". It depends on whether you look at the Barb possession as being Aaw's rebellion or rather her path downhill.

*** End of spoilers ***

But don't be mistaken, this is a very good film (despite being maybe a bit less imaginative towards the end) with some exquisite acting by unknown actors. Especially the lead, Suangporn Jaturaphut (in her first role!) is simply a revelation. It's definitely worth your theater visit, with its well-told straightforward story and beautiful images - and if that's not enough, just go to check out Suangporn.

Reviewed by Platypuschow 6 / 10

P: Should have been better

It's hard to know what to expect when going into a movie simply called P! Based on it's appearance and my history with Thai cinema I assumed it would be yet another bland ghost story but I was mistaken.

The movie tells the story of a young girl living out in rural Thailand who struggling to make ends meet because of her sick grandmother. She is sent through to Bangkok for work but finds herself exploited within a seedy strip club. Becoming increasingly stressed she sets about using the magic taught to her by her grandmother, but things get gradually out of control.

I found myself interested early on, the film looks great and the performances are stronger than you'd expect for a Thai film. I was engaged in this poor girls plight and curious which direction it was going to go in.

When things kicked into gear I was met with both marvel and disappointment. The ideas were there, some of the visual effects were there, sadly the writing badly let it down.

When the credits rolled I was sad that once again a potentially good film had been squandered by a poor ending. It's not THAT bad, but to keep up with the rest of the film it needed to be something special and it simply wasn't.

Regardless P is an enjoyable enough Thai horror with great ideas, competence both in front of and behind the camera just bit of a weak finale.

The Good:

Decent looking antagonist

Solid story

The Bad:

Cutaway deaths

Disappointing ending

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