The Maid

**1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Maid
"It feels less like a horror film than like a telenovela." | Photo: Courtesy of FrightFest

It’s difficult to know what to make of Lee Thongkam’s third feature. It’s incredibly derivative, lifting plot elements and set pieces wholesale from the likes of The Handmaiden and American Psycho. It blends creepiness rooted in Thai tradition with second-rate jump scares, before finally coming alive with scenes of carnage which, though hardly original, are at least committed – and yet for all that, it feels less like a horror film than like a telenovela. If you go to see it, go for the costumes and the set design. There it excels.

Joy (Ploy Sornarin) is a demure teenager who arrives at a luxurious mansion to take up work as a maid. She is also expected to work as a nanny to Lady Nid (Keetapat Pongrue), a young girl whom, she is told, has a neurological variation which causes her to hallucinate. Viewers will immediately be suspicious about this, having observed, in a prequel, that at least some other people share the child’s peculiar experiences. There’s something else unnatural about the situation, however. When Joy becomes convinced that the ghostly presence of a previous maid remains in the house, she starts to try and find out what happened to her – and the previously pleasant couple she’s working for grow curiously reticent.

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The story they’re hiding is revealed in bits and pieces over the course of the film. It has its share of twists but won’t surprise anybody overall, and the film’s big twist, which comes later, is obvious from the start. The characters are nicely drawn, though, stereotypical though they may be. Theerapat Sajakul doesn’t get much to do but fits neatly into the husband and master role like a handsome piece of antique furniture. Savika Chaiyade is exquisite as the lady of the house, and most of cinema’s best femmes fatales have been obvious, so she works well enough. Kannaporn Puangtong gives the previous maid a blend of naivety and ambition which manages to be endearing rather than costing her our sympathy, especially as she comes to realise that she’s out of her depth. It’s Sornarin, however, who is the film’s real success story, handling significant changes in what we see of her character with impressive ease.

It would be unfair to lay all The Maid’s flaws at the feet of its director. This is, after all, a Netflix production, and a good part of Netflix’s business model is based around making cheap imitations of films which have been successful, cramming in as many popular elements as possible. Viewers who haven’t watched much horror or whose demands are quite simple may well find it entertaining, and it seemed to please a fair few people at Frightfest. Some of the early sequences are genuinely unnerving and there’s no shorting of blood later on. The setting is gorgeous (if a little unlikely) and if you don’t swoon over the cast, you’ll lose your heart to the interior décor. In the end, though, there’s much better stuff out there, and one can only hope that the money and fame this produces are put to use creating works which are a bit less obvious.

Reviewed on: 03 Sep 2021
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A teenager, who is working as a domestic maid and being haunted by the previous maid's spirit, strives to discover the secret behind her death.

Director: Lee Thongkham

Writer: Lee Thongkham, Piyaluk Tuntisrisakul

Starring: Ploy Sornarin, Savika Chaiyadej, Theerapat Sajakul, Kaqnnaporn Puangtong

Year: 2020

Runtime: 102 minutes

Country: Thailand

Festivals:

Frightfest 2021

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