Wednesday, October 01, 2008


The Bangkok International Film Festival came to an all too sudden end on Tuesday. As usual I ended up seeing many fewer films than I had planned to. I just don't have the stamina any more to sit through multiple screenings. For one thing I like to digest a film for a while and let it work its way through me before I rush off to see another one. Instead of cramming all these films into a one-week schedule I would much prefer that it be stretched out over a longer period. Reportedly it did fairly well this year and I totally agree with the organizers that a film festival should primarily be about the films and though having celebrities adds to the publicity it's about the movies for most of us. Wise Kwai has loads of coverage of the festival plus a slew of reviews over on his blog. Not surprisingly, the link can be found in my link section! I only have one more film to cover.

James Lee

Though Lee was receiving much praise and film festival exposure for his Chinese language minimalist relationship dramas (Waiting for Love, Before We Fall in Love Again, Things We Do When We Fall in Love), these films were not exactly ringing up the cash register at the box office. So he has shifted gears - first with Breathing in Mud, a Malay family drama but even more so with Histeria, a very commercial and mainstream Malay language horror film that fits quite neatly into the Asian horror genre and is a quantum leap over any other Malay horror film I have come across (not all that many I admit!). There is nothing particularly new here - and in fact if not for the language difference it would be a nice addition to the Korean Girl's High School Horror series. Sometimes though simply setting the same story in a different country with its different traditions makes it intriguing and that was the case here for me.

As in the Korean horror series, the film is as interested in female high school cliques and group dynamics as it is in horror. Bonding and back stabbing come in equal parts and as the film progresses old tensions and cut throat schisms begin to appear in what had initially appeared to be a close-knit group of six friends. Studying and living at a prestigious girl's school, these six "friends" call themselves the Pink Ladies and generally consider themselves a cut above the others. They pull a prank by calling upon an evil spirit to come to them and then one of them pretends to have become possessed. This gets them detention for three days after all the other students have left for the holidays. The prank though rears its ugly head when it seems that they did in fact call an evil spirit back (kind of an Alien/Oily Maniac combo) and it is very angry. The girls are soon running and screaming for their lives when not be mutilated. It is all rather brainless fun and though I am sure for many the film is a sad step down for Lee, I'll take this any day over sitting through another one of his interminably opaque dramas.