It’s been a long time coming, but Monthon Arayangkoon’s supernatural crime drama has picked up a solid fan base since its original release in 2006. Arriving on UK shores courtesy of MVM Entertainment, The Victim tells the tale of Ting, a young actress who takes a job re-enacting crime scenes with the local police force. It might read like a hokey premise on paper, but this kind of thing actually happens in Thailand, where crime scenes are re-enacted and pictures are published in national newspapers, bringing closed cases to the attention of the public. It’s not long before things take a turn for the supernatural, with Ting largely unaware of events taking place around her.
After completing her first job, Ting (Pitchanart Sakakorn) nestles down to pray, unaware of the ghostly presence towering over her – the headless, presence familiar to all fans of Asian horror. Monthon Arayangkoon deserves praise for incorporating local ‘ghost haunts’ in his picture, giving the film a grittier, more disturbing feel. In utilising actual crime scenes – including ‘The Haunted House at Nong Jork’ – The Victim has a realistic tone and disturbing qualities that bleed through. Take the abandoned hospital at Bang Len, for example, where illegal abortions took place and a pregnant woman was raped and killed. The woman’s ghost was later seen at the funeral and the hospital has since been abandoned. Strange phenomena were reported from the set of the movie, and the filmmakers take advantage of this in an eerie credit sequence at the end of the movie.
Ting takes a liking to her job, and the opening act brings with it a welcome dose of comedy, which is a common occurrence for those accustomed to Thai horror. The crime re-enactments bring with them the occasional zany moment, with some of the criminals moved to tears by Ting’s performance, and the majority of the first act sticks to familiar themes of horror cliché. The movie is turned on its head when Ting is signed to play the lead in a film based on one of her true-crime re-enactments. The murder of Meen (Apasiri Nitibhon), a former Miss Thailand no less. As you might expect, things aren’t quite what they seem, and Ting’s brush with the supernatural opens doors that should have stayed closed.
Meen’s husband is suspected of killing her, but is Fai (Penpak Sirikul) – a plastic surgeon and close friend of Meen – all that she seems? Just when you start to lose faith in the familiarity of it all, The Victim pulls it’s first – and most convincing – plot twist. The Victim takes a startling turn at 48 minutes, a move more commonly associated with the closing moments of a horror movie. It’s a brave, bold and daring manoeuvre that brings The Victim back to life. But be warned, there’s a good chance you wont fully appreciate the complexities of The Victim on first viewing. Second time round, Arayangkoon’s movie bathes in added depths of delirium, and to fully appreciate it you really do need to sit down for that second encounter.
The scares are nothing new for a film of this nature, but there’s something about the way the story unfolds that separates The Victim from the chasing pack. Blending supernatural events with crime procedural drama is a smart move, and the overall effect feels less familiar than your usual lank haired ghost story. That’s not to say genuine suspense can’t be found. Arayangkoon cranks up the tension at every turn. But it’s the unique storytelling that makes a lasting impression here.
Pitchanart Sakakorn is well cast in the role of Ting, blessing the movie with a multi-layered performance that never feels forced. The rest of the cast are up to the challenge too, but their characters are perfunctory at best. It doesn’t really matter though. As long as there’s a plucky heroine to root for, you’re well on your way to making a suspenseful horror movie. Conformity rears its ugly head again in the final act, but in a way, Arayangkoon’s movie is a ‘victim’ of its own success. The first twist is so courageous that the rest of the film struggles to keep up. The final act proves to be a little confusing as it attempts to outdo itself, but in truth, The Victim reached its peak way before that, and the restless finale is unable to hit those dizzy heights again.
Despite wrapping itself in horror cliché, The Victim remains an effective fright in. It’s a daring little movie that pulls the rug from under you early on – a bold attempt to buck the trend of Asian ghost stories. It might lose its way from time to time, but there’s much to recommend about this supernatural thriller. Familiar but fresh, creepy and cool, it’s hard to believe it’s taken so long to get here. AW