Friday, 10 November 2006

Colic เด็กเห็นผ (2006)

Even Junior knows this movie should be pulped, juiced, and tossed out

Perhaps we have Thaksin to thank for Thailand’s economic boom in the recent years. With the frequent pump-priming of the Thai economy, it was inevitable that the film industry would find a way to get its hands on the excess liquidity circulating in the country. This is my way of saying that perhaps we have Thaksin to blame for the avalanche of ill-conceived Thai horror films in our cinemas, often as a part of an international trilogy (Three, Black Night), or as stupidly offensive and disrespectful movies that have caused diplomatic incidents and complaints from foreign ambassadors (Ghost Game, Lucky Losers). For the uninitiated, it’s like making an Auschwitz Holocaust Zombie Chainsaw Massacre or a soccer movie calling the Malaysians the worst football team in the world. Meanwhile, groundbreaking and superior storytellers like Pen-Ek Ratanaruang (Invisible Waves, Last Life in the Universe) and Wisit Sasanatieng (Citizen Dog) are forced to sit out the "Thai film revival" in their day jobs with advertising agencies because Thai audiences prefer cheap horror movies and comedies – even if they are badly made. I weep for Thai audiences, the two great young directors of Thai film, and for Singaporean audiences, who are subjected to imported Thai box-office hits that lack the quality to justify a cinema outing to overseas audiences.

This is, of course, a roundabout way of saying that Colic is one of those films. A less direct way would be to mention that Patchanon Thumjira is a first time director whose previous experience in the film industry consisted of designing posters and trailers for local films. He has one bright idea that might serve as an interesting premise for a horror film: babies with colic (a disorder marked by incessant crying) behave that way because they are tormented by apparitions and spirits they have sinned against in their previous life. One could imagine that if the film industry had no access to easy funds, or if Thai audiences were more discriminating, the director would have taken more time and enough to write a better script, edit his movie more professionally, or just thought through the idea more thoroughly.

What you get, then, is a horror movie that is badly mis-timed, where sound cues (you know, spooky music, lots of gamelans, shrieky synths...) do not match what you see on the screen. You will, like me, feel like running out of the cinema (not in horror, but in despair!) by the first half hour, where static shots are accompanied by the horror music cues that seem to suggest something IS happening when you know nothing is happening; horror music cues come in seconds after a fake scare has been executed, and the music cue lingers unbearably after the scare has been revealed as a fake. You will scratch your head over an infamous dream sequence that gave the movie its poster – although effective, it has nothing to do with the theme of the horror movie you are watching.

You will want to run out of the cinema when you realise that the movie has so many loose ends and side-plots that pop out of nowhere and disappear into nowhere just as quickly. Case in point: cursed baby’s mother receives a phone call from a mysterious lady for hubby when he is (supposedly) out doing overtime work. The phone call and the lady are never mentioned again, even though clearly the couple are supposed to be estranged due to the stress of baby’s condition. And of course, the couple are estranged one minute and fine the next. Someone clearly threw out a huge portion of film stock on the editing room floor and forgot to tidy the mess or do a clean job of the pruning.

More evidence of either a butchered film or a poorly written film: Baby’s mom proclaims that every time baby breaks out into a crying spell, he saves the family from a disaster. That clearly isn’t shown in the movie - at that point, parents and caregivers see strange apparitions whenever baby cries. People DIE whenever baby cries.

And what is Thai cinema without its strange insistence on stupidly offending people across the board? If you believe the director, babies with colic may end up retarded and autistic, and have to be interned in a mental institution and put in straitjackets. I vote for the director, his scriptwriter, editor, and the producers of this movie to be put in straitjackets and detained in mental institutions for their worse than amateurish effort to produce a horror film.

First published at incinemas on 16 November 2006

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