Stop me if you've heard this one. Black cats, Friday the 13th and horny teenagers on a remote desert island. Thunderstorms, warnings from all-knowing locals, bikini clad beauties, music video credentials, slow-mo, mindless pranks and things that go bump in the night. I told you to stop me. The only thing missing is a lank haired spirit, but we'll get to that part later. Welcome to the latest in a long line of Thai horror movies, directed by Taveewat Wantha (SARS Wars) and starring Natpassara Adulyamethasiri, Acharanat Ariyaritwikol and Chinawut Indracusin.
It's been a while since I got (un)comfortable with a new Thai horror, probably because I've grown tired of the repetitive themes and token scares. The first thing that attracted me to Long Weekend (a.k.a. Thongsuk 13) was the choice of director. If you haven't already seen Wantha's SARS Wars, honestly, which cushion have you been hiding behind? Thai zombies, mutant zombie babies and flashy laser swords (not lightsabers) - it's nothing if not original. Mixing stunning animation, great special effects, rubbish CGI, outlandish characters and a wonderful sense of humour, SARS Wars is a hugely inventive, tongue firmly in cheek, mischievous horror comedy that demands your full attention. It really is that good.
The trailer for Long Weekend doesn't exactly break new ground, but production values are high and if I'm being completely honest, I was really looking forward to seeing some gratuitous horror. Six teens head to a remote island for a long weekend of fun and debauchery. Quite why they chose the site of sacrificial rituals for the Devouring Ghost Festival is anyone's guess. Wantha delivers plenty of blood and gore in a welcome teen slasher that sticks to the trusty formula of simple story, naive friends and monstrous scares. Had it stuck to the slasher sub-genre I would have been thrilled, but this is a Thai horror production, so it's hardly surprising that a grudge-filled ghost gets in on the action too, and Long Weekend delivers the vengeance in spades.
A mindless prank unearths the evil and what follows is largely conventional, but Wantha handles the mayhem masterfully and Long Weekend benefits from his manic visual style. The effects are impressive throughout, even if most of the good work is hidden behind a blanket of darkness. It's not always easy to tell what's going on in Long Weekend, such is the desire to keep things dark and deplorable, but there's invention in the effects work and Wantha makes the most of the stunning island backdrop. Performances are solid and none of the characters prove particularly detestable, which is something of an achievement in modern horror. Even if (hardly a spoiler) Chinawut Indracusin - who plays simple-minded Thongsook - does overdo the demonic glances from time to time.
Even though Long Weekend ticks off every horror cliché known to man, Wantha's movie feels quite fresh. However, we could also put that down to my resistance to Asia's lank-haired lure. Thai horror is rarely groundbreaking but it regularly delivers the goods and Long Weekend is no exception. With memorable dialogue like "I'm dead enough" when one of the characters meets his extended fate, likeable characters and impressive death sequences, Long Weekend delivers a satisfying rush of token scares and brutal set pieces.
If you still have a candle burning for Thai horror, Long Weekend won't be the film to put it out. Wantha might not be firing on all cylinders with this one but he's still a considerable talent. Long Weekend is a satisfying slasher movie - brutal and occasionally brilliant - likely to frustrate only the harshest of horror critics. There's a lot to enjoy if you're not yet tired of this saturated sub-genre and the ending is a real corker. Recommended. AW