Reviewed by: Keith Hennessey Brown

Growing up in rural Thailand, Aaw (Suangporn Jaturaphut) is marked out as different from the other children who taunt and abuse her.

It's more than the fact that she is Khmer, rather than Thai. Her family knows how to use magic, a secret her grandmother reveals when, one day, something tries to drag Aaw under as she swims in the river.

Copy picture

This magic is powerful, but has its own set of prohibitions that cannot be broken. First, never walk under a clothesline. Second, never take payment for using magic. Third, never eat raw meat.

Fast-forward a few years and Aaw's grandmother has fallen ill - clearly the magic doesn't offer anything here. Needing money to pay for medicine, Aaw takes up the local storeowner's suggestion of a job in Bangkok, where the wages are good.

Needless to say, the job turns out to be in a hostess bar...

Renamed Dau by the madam, Aaw soon loses her virginity to one of the bar's owners, a European, and is helped to overcome the trauma by one of the other girls, the kind-hearted Pookie (Opal), with whom she moves in.

When the owner mocks Aaw and makes moves to deflower the next naive young arrival, Aaw/Dau calls upon her magic, summoning a snake that bites the man as he siphons his own python.

As the months pass, Dau grows accustomed to her new life and seeks to secure an easier, more rewarding job as a pole dancer, practicing her routine in secret to avoid the attentions of the current incumbent, May (Narisara Sairatanee). Eventually, she requests an audition before the madam, but embarrassingly falls flat on her face. Discovering that May has greased the pole, she calls upon her magic once more to extract a grisly revenge.

As power goes to her head, those three taboos are quickly forgotten. Not a good idea...

The combination of a hard-hitting expose of Thai prostitution with genre horror may sound intriguing on paper, but the result emerges as an oil and water mix, suffering from what might be called the Showgirls and Carrie syndrome. As in Paul Verhoeven's film, the dynamics of exploitation and critique feel confused. Are we supposed be turned on, or turned off, by what we see? You assume the latter, but if so why the somewhat leering emphasis? And, as in Brian De Palma's film, how are we supposed to react to a protagonist who moves from sympathetic victim to out-and-out monster, faster than you can say "monstrous feminine"?

In the end, despite good performances and a clear command of technique on the part of writer/director/editor/whathaveyou Paul Spurrier, what is the point of something that's too grim and depressing to be fun and too stylised and sanitised to be taken seriously?

Reviewed on: 13 Aug 2005
Share this with others on...
P packshot
Thai country girl uses terror magic in Bangkok go-go bar.
Amazon link

Director: Paul Spurrier

Writer: Paul Spurrier

Starring: Suangporn Jaturaphut, Dean Barrett, Shaun Delaney, John Kathrein, Chartchai Kongsiri, Opal, Pisamai Pakdeevijit, Supatra Roongsawang, Narisara Sairatanee, Amy Siriya, Paul Spurrier

Year: 2005

Runtime: 105 minutes

Country: UK/Thailand


EIFF 2005

Search database: