Lhorn (Soul) (Arphichard Phopairoj, 2003)
[note: review originally published 1Dec2008]
While the horror anthology hasn’t had much success in America over the past thirty years or so (a few good-to-great ones have sprung up, but never got the distribution they deserved), the form has flourished in Asia, with such notable recent examples as 4bia and Rampo Noir, which remains the finest anthology film I’ve ever seen, showing just how good the format can get. Phopairoj’s almost-as-recent Lhorn is not a bad example of the genre, but it doesn’t match either of those mentioned above, and actually doesn’t even come up to the standards of a run-of-the-mill anthology like Zoo; still, it’s not a bad little flick, and if you’re a fan of this sort of thing, it’s worth checking out.
Four stories here. In one, a tree-spirit falls in love with a human, and plots revenge when her love is not returned. A second also revisits the tree spirit/revenge theme when a woman murdered beneath a tree has her spirit inhabit it to get her revenge. A third involves a magician who breaks the rules and is cursed by his teacher to become a demon who must survive by eating parts of humans you probably don’t want to think about, and the fourth, another tree story, involves a tree-spirit capable of transforming itself into a ghost, which is kind and helpful until someone identifies it as a tree spirit. (I guess when most of your country is full of forest…)
All four stories are traditional Thai folktales, rendered capably, but without the flair of a film like, say, Krasue, which takes a single traditional Thai folktale and pulls out all the stops in the telling. This is not to say that fans of horror anthologies will not find anything enjoyable to be had here; the film does put one in memory of its framing device, sitting around the fire telling stories. The difference is that Lhorn‘s stories are told by the campers, where that of Krasue (or those of superior recent anthology flicks like Rampo Noir or Zoo) are told by the counselor. ** ½