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October 22, 2009

Vengeance

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Phairii phinaat paa mawrana
Preaw Sirisuwan - 2006
BCI Region 1 DVD

Vengeance is a handsomely produced bit of nonsense where the CGI creatures prove more charming than the actual people. There is some genre blending where the story about a group of cops in pursuit of some escaped criminals evolves into horror and fantasy, the deeper the characters run into the jungle, the film likewise becomes less realistic. Preaw, who both wrote and directed the film, has a narrative that relative to its genre almost makes sense, but seems especially enamored of envisioning all manner of fanged terror.

In its own bizarre way, Vengeance is about filial piety. The main criminal, Naso, is introduced as a young boy who escapes from the same jungle with his father, only to have his father die under mysterious circumstances. The main cop, Wut, is the son of a criminal from the same gang, who saw his father arrested. One of the pivotal characters is a Buddhist monk, addressed with the honorific title of "Father", who is in fact the father of Wut. The cop who arrested Wut's father has become Wut's father figure. There is also an older man who acts as the jungle guide, accompanied by his granddaughter, and a matriarchal head of a jungle clan. The main narrative opens with the capture of a member of Naso's gang, who has returned home, missing his wife and daughter. Naso's father has stolen a stone medallion that belongs to the jungle tribe, a device used to connect all of the characters at the film's conclusion.

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But the best part of the film? I love those half alligator-half gecko creatures that climb rapidly down the green trees and leap upon their helpless victims, mouths open wide with hungry grins, ready to dine on human flesh. There is also a weird beauty to the vampire like creatures who spread their wings that resemble veiny leaves. The devil anaconda is mostly from the bigger is better school of fantasy creatures. The fruit tree maidens are a couple of attractive young women, seen bathing nude by moonlight, their long hair strategically placed over their breasts, allowing one foolish man the opportunity to come to a literal understanding of "la petite mort". The first scene of horror is of the tiger wasps, thousands of CGI creatures who make like tiny, flying piranas. Even the sky is ominous, with dark clouds swirling counter-clockwise. Preaw keeps upping the ante so that it's more interesting to see what kind of creatures will next appear to create mayhem, with any concern about the characters escaping the jungle evaporating at each sighting of a set of long, sharp teeth.

While the brief "Making of" documentary does not mention where Vengeance was shot, Preaw should get credit for making the film on location. The film takes place in a jungle area in northern Thailand, near the Burmese border. There is mention of Preaw's background in filming commercials in the documentary which might explain why the film seems more visually polished, with greater attention to the framing of the characters. The title more literally translates as "Evil Spirit of Revenge", and while it is easy to identify the evil spirits, it is less clear who is having their revenge. Curiously, the American DVD version is the true theatrical version, while the Thai DVD version has reportedly been censored for "family" audience watching at home. True to its mission of keeping young adults from watching movies with subtitles, Vengeance was pointlessly rated "R" by the MPAA even though it is less graphic than several Hollywood films anointed PG-13. Preaw almost tips over to the wrong side of pretentiousness on more than one occasion. Fortunately, a fervid imagination resulting in toothy, hungry demons makes Vengeance a twisty pleasure.

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Posted by peter at October 22, 2009 12:01 AM