'Hong Hoon': PiFan Review
Creepy mannequins and untimely deaths are front and center in the feature-film directorial debut of the scion of one of Thailand's oldest entertainment empires.
High on production values and atmospherics, low on substnace, Hong Hoon offers a viewing experience not unlike staring at one of the wax figures at the center of the film. It may look creepy the first time around, but the bad vibes soon wear off, revealing a stuttering narrative devoid of twists that could shatter the protagonists' world — and the viewers' expectations.
With its domestic release in Thailand in June largely overshadowed by the presence of the bombastic action drama King Naresuan 5, the movie's international premiere at the Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival might lead to a limited lifespan in Asian-themed (or horror-centered) programs.
Adapted from a screenplay by director Kulp Kaljareuk's grandmother Samsook — who is credited here as executive producer alongside Kulp's father, Jareuk Kaljareuk, the president of Thai media conglomerate Kantana Group — Hong Hoon revolves around individuals whose loved ones died shortly after each of them received a mannequin of his or her likeness. Among them is Ploy (Rattanarat Aurthaveekul), a young woman whose father died in what appeared to be a freak accident at an archery range; her interpretation of this event as mere misfortune is altered when she is approached by Nop (Ananda Everingham, Shutter), a man in mental meltdown who sees a conspiracy linking the demise of Ploy's father with his own wheelchair-bound sister.
The pair will eventually end up, along with Ploy's cousin Pond (Orlee Sodthivanvong) and friend Korn (Bariwatr Yutoh), at the mannequin maker's shadowy villa, while running into other bereaved characters who turn up to ask questions, avenge and inevitably end up dead.
Samsook Kaljareuk's original screenplay, which has already been made into films and TV series in the past, is melodramatic in its portrayal of struggle for wealth and power in an affluent clan, and Kulp (himself a scion of a clan) strips the story bare.
Living up to its title, which means "the wax figures' room" in Thai, Hong Hoon offers spiraling flashbacks and fantastical sequences as Nop and Ploy struggle for the truth in the mannequin-maker's mansion. Competent visuals and scary-movie music aside, Kulp's take on his grandmother's source material goes for sensation over sense, with the characters' motivations and the villain's raison d'etre lost amidst the dripping wax.
Production Company: Kantana Motion Pictures
Screenwriters: Kulp Kaljareuk, Tiwa Moeithaisong, Rujiraporn Hanchaina, Kevin Vivis Visithsisi
Producers: Sasisupa Sangvaribud, Nattaporn Kaljareuk
Executive producers: Jareuk Kaljareuk, Somsook Kaljareuk, Surachedh Assawaruenganan
Director of photography: Pramett Chankrasae
Production designer: Siranata Ratchusanti
Costume designer: Sirita Piyankon
Editors: Ji Zhao, Di Cui
Music: Apollo Lab
International Sales: Five Star Production
No ratings; 96 minutes