Ha phraeng

Ha PhraengSynopsis: This follow up to 4Bia features five scary tales: a teenager who committed a crime goes to a sacred place for meditation and hiding that brings him fright and guilt; a man is haunted in his hospital ward by an old man in a coma; two men with two hitchhikers in a truck get into big trouble after opening the back of the vehicle; a secondhand car dealer realizes what the previous car owners and passengers had experienced; and, a sick actress whose role is a ghost is reported dead after she is brought to a hospital.

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Ha phraeng 6.25

eyelights: the self-referential humour of ‘In the End’. the mix of styles.
eyesores: the poor twists in ‘Novice’ and ‘Salvage’.

Following the screening of ‘Si phraeng‘ (or ‘4bia’), my gf and I were heading for the hills. We had originally planned to stay for the double feature, but the first entry was barely tolerable; we simply couldn’t bear the idea of another two hours of that caliber.

For good or bad, we discovered that we were to be joined by her son and his friend; they were on their way to the auditorium, and we were thus stuck waiting for them there. We agreed that we would stay for ‘Ha phraeng’ if they decided that they wanted to see it.

As it happens, they figured that, since they had come all the way just for it, they really preferred to see the picture. So we stayed too.

‘Ha phraeng’ (or ‘Phobia 2’), Is a direct follow-up to ‘Si phraeng’. It is also an anthology, but none of its stories relate to the ones in the first film. It was a massive hit in Thailand, where it broke opening week box office records .

This picture collects five short stories (whereas the previous had four – the Thai title for the first being ‘Four Crossroads’ and this one being ‘5-Way Intersection’) and all feature different writers, directors and stars – although some players may be familiar to fans of the original film.

1. Novice: This one was intriguing because the setting was out of the ordinary – it took place at a Buddhist sanctuary out in the woods. It would have made for a relatively effective, creepy ghost story, too, if not for the whole denouement and the discovery that the boy had killed his own father by mistake – which, given how it took place, was utterly moronic. 4.5

2. Ward: This one takes place in a hospital room, with our protagonist bedridden with two broken legs. He shares the room with an older man, who remains hidden behind curtains. All through the night, the young man begins to see strange things from his neighbour’s side of the room. This wasn’t especially great, but it was spooky enough; it had a few nice moments, even if it was nothing new. It didn’t make much sense, but since it seemed to revolve around a religious cult, one could write it all off as “magic” or supernatural happenings. 6.0

3. Backpackers: This one was a somewhat predictable zombie story featuring two backpackers, but it was well-made and its gritty style was pleasing. I also enjoyed the criminal element underlying the whole event – that was unusual for the genre. And the closing sequence with the boy charging a convoy was pretty awesome. 7.0

4. Salvage: This one’s about a young boy who gets lost in his mom’s car dealership while she’s working and how she tries to find him. It tried to be scary, but failed because we didn’t know what the !@#$ was going on. And the ending was absolutely ridiculous: what was the boy doing under the hood? Hmmm… not great. 4.0

5. In the End: The cast and director of ‘Khon Klang’ (‘The Man in the Middle’) from ‘Si prhaeng’ return for this ‘Scream’-like self-referential blend of comedy and horror. It’s about the shooting of a horror film called ‘Alone 2’ (amusingly enough, the director of ‘In the End’ had made a feature called ‘Alone’, featuring the same lead actress). It’s by far the best of the lot, and it was a great way to end the set. 8.0

Again, as was the case with ‘Si phraeng’, the quality of the presentation was extremely disappointing: the picture was soft, filled with digital noise and it lacked definition – this was again likely projected from a digital file or a crappy DVD copy. Also, the audio was anemic and the subtitles sometimes made no sense.

Still, all in all, I enjoyed the diversity of ‘Ha phraeng’ and the quality of some of its shorts, so it wasn’t an entirely unpleasant experience. In fact, were it a triptych, it would have been a relatively excellent film. Trimmed to four shorts, it would remain a pretty decent picture.

But, bogged down by two mediocre shorts, my overall impression is that it could have been better. Having said that, this is endemic of the anthology genre – they are rarely great from start to finish. ‘Ha phraeng’ falls smack dab in the middle: one could do well worse, and far better.

In the end, I’m glad that we went to this double feature, even if it was of unremarkable quality: I was in good company and there were interesting moments along the way.  Granted, it may not have been the grandest cultural experience, but, as a night out, it was relatively memorable.

Post scriptum: although ‘Si phraeng’ and ‘Ha phraeng’ were originally to be part of my month-long Hallowe’en slate, after seeing these pictures I decided to bump them. I couldn’t see any reason why someone would be interested in them – not even as novelty items.

Date of viewing: September 14, 2013

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