Thai writer-directors Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom have shot to prominence in the horror genre with their debut movie Shutter, which I had regrettably missed its theatrical run here, but more than made up for it by being the proud owner of the (now autographed) DVD.
In my opinion, having mustered up enough courage to sit through horror movies now (and find them really enjoyable, at times comedic though), I've shuddered at some of this genre's movies which keep on harping on the same thing, and got dumbed down by weak execution. Some Thai horror movies too turned out rather horribly. But not Shutter, and definitely not Alone.
If you think Banjong and Parkpoom are one hit wonders with their debut movie, then Alone will prove you wrong. Despite having counted on the usual lighting and shadow techniques, quick cut surprises and scares, and the pristine, well-crafted sound effects, it demonstrated that as long as you deliver the product with great technical skill and respect for the medium, it'll still be as enjoyable as watching it all for the very first time. Having a storyline which engages helps as well, and here the duo still seemed to have a thing or two for old photographs, this time showing the subject material of siamese twins, although not as grotesque as those shown in the Alone trailers.
While the storyline isn't really that original, with the surviving siamese twin having to encounter the supernatural return of her deceased other, and if you look closely enough there are adequate hints of the revelatory twist to come, what mattered was how the subject again was being introduced and crafted, how tension and suspense were met out, and how easy it is to spook audiences when all the ingredients turn out right. Despite having some premise set up for the obvious, I was still taken aback at one of the scenes, and it is this constant sense of what's coming, and the expected delivery, which will easily make this a successful spook film for the mass audience.
The duo had got the male heartthrob Ananda Everingham lead in their previous movie, and now the opportunity is given to the female gender - the beautiful and very photogenic Masha Wattanapanich, who plays the siamese twins Pim and Ploy. Starring opposite them in a Natthaweeranuch Thongmee kinda role, is Vittaya Wasukraipaisan as Wee, Pim's boyfriend. As Pim's mother (Ratchanoo Bunchootwong) is suddenly taken ill back in Thailand, the duo have to leave their careers in Korea, and journey back to the homeland, where the unexpected starts to happen. Pim's encounters with who she presumes is Ploy led to Wee thinking that she needs psychiatric help, but slowly, he too gets drawn into the web of supernatural intrigue.
And in all earnestness, I'd say Masha had nailed her role to a fitting T. Given that Pim and Ploy's characters are key to the movie, she managed to bring out the vast differences in the character of the two sisters (of course the teenage actresses who played the younger versions also helped loads). In shedding light onto the ongoing mystery, the expected blast from the past recollection and flashback helped provide a certain richness to the entire backstory for all the characters, and in doing so, played on a common theme, one that at times I like to ponder upon - which I cannot elaborate further other than saying, is ignorance sometimes bliss, and can you live a lie?
Alone is excellent stuff, even though the horrific moments might come few and far between, and there possibly was a sub-genre shift in the last 10 minutes or so. Nonetheless its numerous strengths easily outweigh the minute weaknesses, and in having delivered a superbly crafted tried-and-tested story, this could easily be a hit at the box office. Recommended for all you people out there who are itching for a good scare!
On this day of the screening, it was quite uncanny, creepy even, to have experienced during lunch time, my order of stewed hard boiled egg having two egg yolks in them. As if that wasn't enough, just before I left for the screening venue, a large cricket was found clinging onto my shirt, which was just amazing as I have absolutely no idea how it got there in the first place - within a minute when I last looked, and in an urban environment too.
Anyway nothing untoward happened, the screening went on without a hitch, and the directors Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom were on hand for a brief discussion session with the audience. Too bad Marsha Wattanapanich wasn't around to grace the occasion.
Some points on what was discussed:
- Unlike Shutter, there were no supernatural happenings on the set of Alone (watch the DVD extras of Shutter to find out what exactly
- The directors were lucky to have Marsha on board as she was looking into making a movie comeback
- I actually asked how they collaborate in the production, given that they're sharing the writer-director credit. And the usual reply (from the translator, which I thought was amazing given the few words that they said) explained that they collaborated a lot behind the scenes to iron out everything before filming began, thus they knew what results they were after.
- This is a US$2.5 million production (no wonder it looked so good!)
- The house featured was purpose-built
- The CGI was done by the same team who did the effects in Black Hawk Down
- No animals were harmed in the movie
- The US remake of Shutter stars Rachael Taylor, who starred as the blonde hacker in Michael Bay's Transformers, and is due for a 2008 release