This portmanteau horror from Thailand, co-directed by Pisuth Praesaeng-Iam and Oxide Pang (Bangkok Dangerous, The Eye), presents three supernatural tales that contrast old style ghosts with a modern city of nightclubs, computers and mobile phones.

The first story, Legend Of The Drum, starts with a comicbook-reading hitch-hiker being surpised by a monster that's somehow connected to an antique drum, destined for a young antiques dealer, Jieb. Soon after receiving the mysterious drum, Jieb beings to be plagued by strange dreams. Believing the drum and dreams to be connected, she investigates with the help of her college professor, discovering an 80-year-old mystery...

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After Jieb's tale - the first of Praesang-Iam's two contributions - the filmmakers reveal their framing device, that of three young women - Jieb, Pan and Kanya - swapping ghost stories in a bar.

Pan's story, Black Magic Woman, is next, the second instalment from Praesang-Iam. Alone and looking for love, Pan's neighbour suggests she try the unguent Ply Essence, which makes its user irresistible to men. Feeling she has nothing to lose, Pan tries the oil and discovers, to her surprise and delight, that it works. Then the side effects kick in...

Finally, it is Nop's turn, along with that of Pang, with a story of Revenge, told in the third person. A police detective believes that a young woman's death was murder rather than suicide and, against the advice of his superiors, conducts his own investigation, uncovering a mess of secrets...

The casual viewer could easily overlook the fact that Bangkok Haunted has two directors, such is the sameness of Praesaeng-Iam and Pang's respective contributions.

Both men over-emphasise style, but have little real substance to back it up. The three tales suffer from Film School 101 atmospherics - minimal lighting, shadows and fog, jarring edits, etc - but deliver little in the way of genuine suspense, or shock.

Worse, this surfeit of stylishness gives Bangkok Haunted a horribly bloated feel. It moves at a snail's pace and cries out for merciless editing to carve off the fat and rescue a decent 90-minute movie contained within.

Maybe the filmmakers are aware of these weaknesses, their framing device being full of self-conscious comments - "Your story ends so easily" "Yeah! It ends with no style" "What about you two? How are you going to end it?" - suggesting that they were trying to be postmodern and ironic. But that's hardly cutting edge when one considers that Cavalcanti and Mario Bava were playing similar games to greater effect, with Dead Of Night and Black Sabbath, before Praesaeng-Iam and Pang were born.

All told, Bangkok Haunted makes for somewhat frustrating viewing.

Reviewed on: 28 Mar 2003
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Three supernatural tales from Thailand.
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Director: Pisuth Praesang-Iam, Oxide Pang

Writer: Pisuth Praesang-Iam, Oxide Pang

Starring: Pimsiree Pimsee, Dawan Singha-Wee, Pete Thong-Jeur, Kalyunat Riboonrueng

Year: 2001

Runtime: 130 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Thailand


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