A few weeks ago, I was in the mood for "cheap Asian horror". I had no particular movies in mind, mind you, but I had an approxiamate price range: about $10-$12. We (being my wife and myself) went down to Best Buy and looked around and I finally found this: Tokyo Shock's 2-Disc "Double Dose of Horror II" boxset, containing The Unborn and The Commitment. It was $12.99 ($14.99 on their website, $17.99 on Amazon.com) and so fit the price range and I got two movies. That seemed like a win. Potentially. The boxes did not go into too much detail and so I wasn't sure exactly what was going, but I was willing to give it a try.
Do you like pretty, college age Thai women? Do you mostly watch horror for non-horror elements? Are you willing to hit mute and turn off captions and just stare at the tumbling of images on the screen? Your enjoyment will likely be measured by the number of "yes" you had there, and if you got "yes" on all three, you might be in the target market for this movie. You have a number (three as the main focus) of young, 18-20 year old Thai women who occasionally get a little handsy (I am unsure of implied lesbianism was meant to be a plot or if they were just supposed to be very close friends) and incite the wrath of a ghost (natch) who then goes around and does things like causes them to slip in the shower and makes their hair fall out and cough up pills. Not all that often or anything, and never really scary when she (natch) shows up, but it works, I guess, as that sort of low-level Saturday afternoon style horror. Never offensive, never shocking, but with eye candy and something like a plot.
The Tokyo Shock treatment fails in two areas. First, there is a sub/side-plot that starts off the movie, involving a woman who was going to be gang-raped but isn't, or something, and her standing in the middle of a road. Later scenes refer back to it. I have no idea why. I have a feeling that a slightly tighter translation would have referred to her, more, that some of the "she" and "this girl" kind of comments in the movie were about her, maybe. Secondly, towards the end there is this house/shack with writing on the wall that is the climax and final solution of the movie, except Tokyo Shock chose not to translate any of the written words. BAM, the one woman is down on her knees as a wall drips with blood and the writing on the wall taunts her. She is in tears and crying out. However, us Mericans have no idea what exactly is being said*. We can infer it from the next small flashback, but considering this is the ghosts only real "line" in the movie, it still feels like we are working harder to put two and two together than this movie deserves.
A disclaimer and clarifier of sorts: I have not seen the American movie The Unborn, nor do I really want to see it, nor does it appear to be a remake of any form or fashion of this earlier Thai movie.
I have seen The Eye 2 and my initial worry, compounded by my overall "eh" feeling left by The Commitment was that this was going to be much the same: pregnant woman has dead things trying to crawl up her netherly flower (natch). This one I am going to have to mark down as a surprise, though. It was a lot better than expected. Sure the effects are a little bland at times, if not downright hokey, and there are a few places where the plot could have used a bit more massaging; but there is enough bits of "new" stuffed in the crackes to make it entertaining.
One of the first things this movie has going for it is grittiness. Por is a drug-using, drug-pushing bartender who gets beat up one night for doing a bit too much on the side, and then, when she fights back, is shoved into a lake and left for dead. She awakes in a hospital, grimey in the way that Americans worry about Thai hospitals being grimey, and finds out she is pregnant with a baby she does not want (the father has left the country). Some of the scenes here hit (such as the pregnant ghost whose insides are full of gore instead of a baby) or miss (the flooding bathroom scene, somewhat destroyed in inttensity due to the fact that there is an obvious air pocket at the ceiling) but for most people, the attempts at homemade abortion (punching herself in the stomach, twisting a metal bucket handle into something of a cervical spear), and the overall desperation of Por's situation is going to take them through this first act. By the second, a somewhat standard plot obviously owing Ringu some nods, starts buidling up as Por and her friends begin looking into what the ghost really wants. Finally, the third wraps it up with a few clunky plot twists, a moment or two of Tokyo Shock subtitle confusion, and at least one false ending; but it works. By jove, I had a smile on my face because those aforementioned bits of "new" really worked for me.
Fans of the Thai movie Shutter will find a handful of scenes that inspire déjà vu, such as the nature of the investigation in the second half, the college student that has gone missing plot, the scene of "flashing darkness" with a ghost moving around, and a scene involving a camera (though different than the way it was handled in Shutter). Keep in mind, though, this movie came out a year before Shutter and, based on a few of the angles and such, I would guess was actually an inspiration for the more popular movie.
There are two basic ways of looking at the boxset, and that will change your ratings. If you take the Good The Unborn and the Meh The Commitment as having equal billing for your buck, you are left with an Eh as a rating. Take it like I did, however, with the "boxset" really being The Unborn and The Commitment was practically a bonus disk, and it ends up being Good with two hours of features! Seriously though, if you buy this, consider it a buy one, get the other one for free, and your enjoyment will go much further.
Si Vales, Valeo
*: SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS! The translation "obviously" comes out to be [Highlight to read] "I want your friends" or "I will take your friends". While the next scene (the brief flashback) verifies this, there was a good chance that there was more to it than this, not to mention losing the other writing on the wall sort of throws off the scene as well.
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Written by Doug Bolden
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