Friday, July 18, 2008

Art of the Devil 3 (Long Khong 2)


I suppose Thai horror movies are still popular and continue to enjoy theatrical releases in Singapore, and black magic still intrigues and provide numerous amount of material from which movies draw upon to conjure another round of scary movies. Black Magic's the dark arts in some parts of cultures of the east, and I still remember vividly some of the Hong Kong movies which elevated the Thai black arts as something horrific and truly scary, for a kid anyway.

While there are the usual spirit based stories from the well made Shutter to Dorm, Thai black magic somehow still provide that extra scare that's right up the alley of the West's torture porn genre. But practitioners usually require a great amount of skill and sacrifice in order to master such magic, and retribution is key to stories where revenge forms the basis for anyone wishing to acquire such abilities.

There's some confusion in the title Art of the Devil 3, that I shall revert to its English version of Long Khong 2. The reason being, the first Art of the Devil movie (titled Khon Len Khong, which I have not watched, but have on DVD) stars Supaksorn Chaimongkol as the protagonist exacting revenge on those who have abused her. Then Art of the Devil 2 (Long Khong) was a story about a schoolteacher Ms Panor (Napakpapha Nakprasitte) exacting revenge on her students. However, Long Khong has absolutely no relations to Khon Len Khong, only having black magic as a common denominator between the two, and Long Khong 2 instead ties in with Long Khong, except that the series of events here happened before those in the original, hence Long Khong 2 is actually the prequel.

Confused? Well, just wait until you get to the way the story was told here. In most cases, sequels (or prequels for that matter) build on the predecessor movie, and the audience would be expected to be fairly familiar with the characters. But watching Long Khong 2, I felt one would be better off in having no background knowledge from the previous film, and approach this clean. Unless you've watched Long Khong just before this one, your memory might need a little jog since it was released 2 years ago, and you might be fuzzy with proceedings, and start to ask unnecessary questions to try and piece together both timelines. It didn't help of course that Long Khong had flashbacks that touch on events that happen to be covered again in Long Khong 2 (also unfortunately done in some parts with flashbacks), and you're more than likely to do a double take, distracting you from what is current.

So we have recurring characters like Ms Panor the principle character who we follow and learn how she obtains her powers, Sommart Priahirun as the lecherous father and Namo Tonggumnera as Tah, while new ones like Suppakorn Kitsuwan (who was excellent in Wisit Sasanatieng's Mon-rak Transistor) joins the fray as Dit, a man obsessed with black magic and having within him uncontrollable powers that eat away his very being. To save himself, he must possess the Three-Eyed Devil, which resides in Ms Panor, and the two set themselves up for a climatic duel, only to have that turn out very limp.

Unfortunately for us in Singapore, despite its R21 rating, we still get this in edited format. Worse, these jarring cuts were made usually at the final moments of a black magic delivery, cutting away most of the gore that audiences turned up in droves for. Even the movie's climatic scene as suggested in the trailers, the one involving pins and the human eye, doesn't get spared the censor's scissors, and what's left intact of course were the more tamer sequences that even made Final Destination look better. And you'd have to wait quite a while before sorcery gets used, and when it got delivered in edited mode, you can't help but to feel short changed. Some deja-vu moments courtesy from scenes covered in the earlier movie didn't help too, making this feel like it's running on repeat.

This is one movie that the trailer had made it to be more frightening that it actually was, but for those curious to want to see this despite the edits, heed my advice - if you've watched Long Khong, rent the DVD to watch it again just before you watch Long Khong 2, but if you haven't, then forget it and watch this first, before the previous movie.

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