Krasue (Bin Bunluerit, 2002)
[note: review originally published 1Dec2008]
(Note: I actually wrote this review three months ago, and have since been trying to find someone to translate the credits so I can figure out who’s who. I have been unsuccessful, so I haven’t attributed anyone except the lead—and I may be wrong in that. I apologize if I am.)
Ever since I first encountered it in TSR’s Fiend Folio back in, what was that, 1981?, I’ve been fascinated by the idea of the penanggalan, the mythical Thai creature, half-ghoul and half-vampire, that consists of a woman’s head and intestines flying around biting people. What kind of deranged mind came up with that sort of thing? It thrilled me to no end to find out a movie had been made about it (I’ve since come to find out that a number of others have as well, though I haven’t tracked the others down yet). It’s not the best horror movie I’ve ever seen. In fact, it’s not the best horror movie I’ve seen this month. But I’m still thrilled to know it exists.
The plot: Taratawee (Lakana Wattanawongsiri) is a princess of the Khmer people. We find out in the opening scenes that she’s been having an affair with a Thai spy. When her people are captured, a Thai warlord wants her for his wife. He catches her saying goodbye to her boyfriend and puts them both to death. However, she has a twin—a village girl named Daow (both names, in their respective languages, mean “star”, one of the characters tells us) who is pure of heart. She’s slated to marry Roong, who seems to be next in line for village elder, but she’s also drawn the eye of Taur, who’s not nearly so upstanding. After Roong humiliates Taur in a fight, Taur wants revenge, and entreats his father, a black priest, to kill Roong. Better, the father says, to make him suffer by killing Daow. Both girls are executed at the same time, but Taratawee’s spirit has been blessed by her grandmother, a powerful priestess in her own right; it escapes, finds Daow’s body, and the two are joined. At around this time (it’s kind of a spoiler, but I’m sure you’ll figure it out), something starts attacking the village livestock, and the locals start looking for a renegade tiger…
Yeah, it’s predictable, and if you’re looking for a modern, fast-paced horror film, you’re bound to be disappointed; this is not just a period piece in its setting, but in its tone as well (as seems to be the case with period pieces made by many Asian horror directors; though the two films are thematically opposites of one another, there’s a good deal here that puts me in mind of Takashi Miike’s wonderful film Sabu). The pace is, to be nice, leisurely, and the horror elements of the movie are very short stretches of its length. (The penanggalan doesn’t appear until we’re almost halfway into the film; the first half is almost entirely the setup I related in the plot synopsis.) Still, the cinematography is stunning, as is the lead actress (she bears more than a slight resemblance to Jessica Alba, especially when seen in firelight), and as long as you don’t mind long, talky scenes, the story itself is pretty absorbing (let me backtrack and compare it to another film that’s much closer to it thematically, Djordje Kadijevic’s equally wonderful Leptirica, in this regard). I liked it better than the average IMDB viewer, so take this entire review with a grain of salt, but I still say you should definitely give it a look if you’re looking for a horror film that’s thoughtful, intelligent, and features the coolest undead creature ever co-opted by Dungeons and Dragons. *** ½
Rock that trailer. ROCK IT.