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March 20, 2007

Vow of Death


Piyapun (Tommy) Chupetch - 2007
Avant Company Ltd. 35mm Film

Vow of Death is this past week's newest Thai horror-comedy. Perhaps my expectations were a bit misplaced, but the film is yet another example of a potential premise mishandled by laziness. Vow of Death vacillates between the comic, horror, and a combination of the two, without ever finding the right balance in this overworked Thai genre. Making it worse, the comedy is often not funny, while the back story is too serious, making the film's shifts in tones frequently awkward.

The basic premise should have been mined more greater comic value. A quartet of high school students, concerned about passing their exams for college entrance, go to a special banyan tree that has been known to grant wishes. The spirit of an assassinated Army general lives in the tree. There are also stories that those who do not make offerings to the tree following the fulfullment of wishes encounter untimely deaths. The students, heeding advice of the folk tale, return to the tree with their gifts, only to find that the tree has been removed by a lumber company, to be made into toothpicks. Demons pursue the students. In order to placate the demons, the students go shopping for packages of toothpicks made from the holy tree.

What little satire there is of Thai folk beliefs and animism is primarily limited to the students making comments about a female demon's threatening poses. A scene of the students screaming just a bit too long at the sight of a demon is played for laughs, a moment spoofing a frequent cliche of Thai horror films. What hobbles Vow of Death is that the story of the general, told in flashback, is too serious within the context of the main narrative, making the comic aspects seem more inappropriate. Also, the female demon appears for no other reason than to scare the students, but otherwise seems to have no direct relation to the spirit of the banyan tree.

There is no reason to overly analyze Vow of Death. The film was made primarily to entertain a teenage audience, which it seems to do quite well based on the audience at the screening I attended. The film is as easily forgotten as the life lesson regarding promises that the characters are suppose to learn.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at March 20, 2007 05:57 AM


I was thinking about seeing this, mainly for Boriwat Yuto and Chatchai Plengpanich in the cast. But now ... maybe 300 would be better?

Posted by: Curtis at March 21, 2007 12:08 AM

300 wasn't too bad. Be advised that the Thai version is altered, with pixilation over some exposed body parts. One shot makes it look like there's a shingle hanging over Gerard Butler's backside. Based on how successful the film has been at the box office, there's an audience for overly buff men dressed in red capes and brown Speedos.

Posted by: Peter Nellhaus at March 21, 2007 08:38 PM