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March 25, 2008

Art of the Devil

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Art of the Devil/Khon Len Khong
Tanit Jitnukul - 2004

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Art of the Devil II/Long Khong
The Ronin Team - 2005
both films Media Blasters Region 1 DVD

It's been almost a year since I left Thailand. Obviously, Thailand has not left me. The two Art of the Devil films intrigued me when I saw posters at the VCD rental stores. As is common now for Thai films in Thailand, even the DVDs do not have English subtitles, so I had to wait until coming back to the U.S. to see the films. I probably would have been better off sticking to admiring the posters, but after reading that a third entry was in production, I figured it was high time to see the first two films in this series in title only. The devil is a woman in both of these films, practicing witchcraft to seek revenge. The films are for those either with less discriminating tastes in horror films, or an abiding love for Thai films made for Thai audiences.

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If the first Art of the Devil has a slight edge, it is because Tanrit Jitnukul's film has the more interesting story, and the character played by Supakson Chaimongkol has greater motivation for her mis-deeds. That the scorned woman of a philandering husband takes revenge is not new, but this is Thailand, where the pregnant and abandoned girlfriend finds out that her lover not only has a legal family, but a second family by a long-time mistress. To some degree, the film speaks to the occasionally precarious state that Thai women find themselves in. More often the film is about people coming to untimely and gory ends through Supakson's witchcraft. There is a creepy blonde girl that appears near the end for no stated reason other than that she's a less than friendly spirit with a penchant for jumping on peoples' beds. I haven't seen any of Tanit's other films, but his Bang Rajan is considered his career best. Tanit does raise the artistic stakes slightly by having the film first alternate between the black and white present and the color past. Not exactly Bonjour Tristesse, but more like "Hello Scariness".

Art of the Devil II is not a sequel but the title given to a film about another woman seeking revenge through witchcraft. Napakpapha Nakprasitte portrays the former teacher getting even with her son and his five friends. Napakpapha was nominated a couple of years ago by the Thai National Film Association as Best Supporting Actress, and almost in keeping with her character, had her nomination withdrawn as she thought she should have be up for Best Actress. There are a few interesting twists to the story about a Cambodian curse and inescapable karma. The Ronin Team is actually seven people, with the most notable member being Kongkiat Khomsiri, screenplay writer for Bang Rajan and The Unseeable. It should be sufficient to say that Art of the Devil II has earned its reputation for gross out horror of the kind that often makes Takashi Miike look tasteful.

For those interested, here is the link to the English titled preview to Art of the Devil III (courtesy of Twitch). From what I can tell, the third film includes elements of the first two films. In other words, lots of devil, but not much art.

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Posted by peter at March 25, 2008 01:27 PM

Comments

I have avoided seeing these. From what I have read about Art of the Devil 3 or Long Khong 2, it is a prequel to Art of the Devil 2 or Long Khong.

Posted by: Curtis at March 26, 2008 06:10 PM