DVD
Ghost of Mae Nak

Starring: Pataratida Pacharawirapong, Siwat Chotchaicharin, Pornthip Papanai and Jaran Ngamdee
Tartan Asia Extreme
RRP: 19.99
TVD3705
Certificate: 15
Available 29 January 2007


Mak and Nak are a young couple about to be married. They buy the oldest house in their region of Thailand, a seriously run-down property with a reputation for short-term owners. Mak purchases a brooch for his wife, but from that moment - and particularly after the wedding - events seem to conspire against them. Mak is plagued by visions of a terrifying ghost, their house is broken into and the wedding gifts stolen and, when Mak later notices the gifts being sold on the street and gives chase, he is struck by the thieves' car and ends up in a coma. Nak discovers the brooch and when Mak tells her through his coma to find Mae Nak, she learns that their house is on the site of Mae Nak who is a legendary ghost from a hundred years in the past. When people who have done the couple harm begin to die in a particularly gristly fashion, Nak begins to suspect the ghost is protecting them. But what does it want with her? And why is it holding Mak in a coma...?

This is a beautiful tale well told; one of those East Asian supernatural horror films which stand out from the rest in terms of acting and direction. Yes, it has elements of The Ring (particularly when Nak uncovers the buried body), but it's difficult not to find a ghost story from this part of the world which doesn't remind you of what started this captivating sub-genre. The film works on several levels. It's been described as a haunting love story, but I'd venture to suggest it closer resembles a supernatural drama or thriller with comedic elements.

Yes, comedy. How can you fail to be amused when a character is killed in a scene which belongs to Airplane or The Naked Gun? After being terrified by the ghost, he staggers back knocking over a pot of boiling water on to himself. Whilst throwing himself about in agony, he is struck by a vehicle and thrown on to a food stall containing naked flame and set ablaze. The death is so ridiculous, but it works because it is carefully kept separate from the frightening appearance of the ghost. In other words, the apparition has departed before we witness the consequences of its presence. Another amusing moment comes when another character is cut down the middle by a falling sheet of glass (borrowed from the original The Omen, perhaps), and a dog runs off with an arm.

Don't get the wrong impression by thinking this is a spoof or send-up. There are only small moments of humour and these are carefully balanced along with every other emotion we are persuaded to feel. The humour is a release, however, and leaves you less prepared for the next scene. The plot is constantly moving and evolving. The primary characters behave in a believable manner, and when circumstances demand they suddenly act unnaturally the periphery characters react accordingly with shock - something which doesn't happen in too many movies, when they forget how we reflect on each others lives.

Westerner Mark Duffield, who wrote and directed this film, has to be commended for creating both a powerful and emotional tale, especially as he was playing the potentially dangerous game of toying with a famous Thai ghost legend - an undertaking which could so easily have ended in ridicule and disaster.

Ty Power

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