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January 19, 2010

Ghost House

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Memory/Memory Rak Lon
Torphong Tankamhaeng - 2008
Innoform Media Region 3 DVD

The original Thai title translates as "Memory Haunted Love". Ghost House is more serious minded than the usual Thai ghost story. On the down side, is the common problem with too many commercial Thai films, of a script that is not as well thought out as it should be, with at least one major plot hole. On the plus side, there are a couple of good jolts. Just when you think Torphong has tipped his hand, the film goes into some unexpected places.

A psychiatrist, Krit, tries to evaluate a young girl, Pare. Pare claims to see a ghost which has physically bruised her. By police order, Krit sees Pare at her home when her mother, Ing-orn, refuses to let her outside of the house. While it helps propel the plot, we see that Krit has questionable standards of professionalism, watching a video of his first interview with Pare at home, with his wife who remarks that the girl would be about the same age as the daughter they would have had. Krit also is shown washing some kind of pill with liquor, when not regularly downing shots at his favorite bar. Discretion is set aside when Krit embarks on an affair with increasingly unstable Ing-orn.

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Torphong Tankamhaeng directed the often very funny Seven Days to Leave My Wife. That he's made two very different kinds of films about people with marital problems might raise a question or two. Setting aside whether young Pare has actually seen a ghost, or is transposing a fantasy to mask a more disturbing reality, it is the principle adults in Ghost House who are deeply troubled by their respective pasts from which there is no escape. Ing-orn and Pare have left Bangkok for Chiang Mai in an unsuccessful bid for a quiet, anonymous life. Krit shows compassion for his patients, no matter how dangerous, yet has no feelings for his wife. Ing-orn claims to be protecting her daughter from accusations of being crazy from her ghost sightings, yet the demand for privacy reveals that the mother is hiding some darker secrets.

The build up is slow, but picks up about midway. Krit begins to have have a ghostly sighting of his own, followed by a series of nightmares.

Ghost House is one of several films that Ananda Everingham made during an extremely busy two year stretch between 2007 and 2008. It's only when his back story is discussed that he may have been a few years to young for his role. Mai Charoenpura, a popular Thai star, plays the troubled mother and lover. The age discrepancy is never a topic in the film. Nicely photographed in yellow light, the love scene is not as erotic as intended. Sun Khumpirannon is more than adequate as the girl who insists she is terrorized by a ghost. One major problem with the DVD is that it was formatted in 4:3 ratio, with two shots noticeably squeezed to get both characters within the frame. At a time when DVDs usually have the film's original aspect ratio, or a close approximation, the choice to make Ghost House as a so-called full frame DVD is wrongheaded. What ever weakness there are in Ghost House, it is not without interest as an ambitious attempt to do something different with that staple of Thai cinema, the ghost story.

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Ghost House is available from HK Flix.

Posted by peter at January 19, 2010 12:38 AM