Slice -- Film Review

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ROTTERDAM, Netherlands -- In the slasher-thriller "Slice," a cop-turned-convict tracks down a serial killer by delving into his own troubled childhood memories. Genre buffs in particular will be aroused by the high camp quotient of the gender-bending twists in Wisit Sasanatieng's ("The Unseeable") baroque story idea, which is a cut above mainstream Thai horror. Direction by Kongkiat Khomsiri ("Art of the Devil 2") backs this up with sharp visuals, stylized grotesquerie and a touch of delicacy in depicting teenage angst and gay sexual awakening.
   
Mainstream audiences may be unnerved by the gore and sexual obscenities, but "Slice" will rip its way through fantasy fests and midnight screenings, as well as being a hot item for Asian-specialist DVD distribution.

"Slice" gets off to a blood-curdling start with effectively jolting scenes of murder and mutilation in a range of styles. Tai (Arak Amornsupasiri) is a detective put in jail to do the bidding of his corrupt boss, Papa Chin (Chatchai Plengpanich). He is haunted by nightmares involving a suitcase. When suitcases turn up all over Bangkok with castrated corpses inside and DV footage of a mysterious killer in a red cape-like raincoat, criminal psychologists deduct that Tai may know the suspect.

Tai is given 15 days to find the murderer while his wife, Noi (Jessica Pasaphan), is kept under Chin's surveillance as bail. As Tai revisits his hometown, flashbacks reveal his childhood friendship with Nut (Atthapan Poolsawasdi), which unfolds like a sweet puppy love referencing the teen gay romance "Love of Siam." This turns out to be a deceptive lull as the villagers are soon revealed as gay-bashers or sick perverts. The atmosphere oozes Lynchian evil.

The pulse quickens in the last act with an outbreak of violence and emotional hysteria. Plotwise, the pieces do fall into place, culminating in an audacious twist. The radical changing of tonal registers and gore that borders on burlesque -- such as a fight between Noi and Chin on a rubbish heap that is literally jaw-dropping -- results in a distancing effect.

Tai's feelings of revulsion, pity and guilt in response to Nut's devotion are the stuff of emotionally charged and psychologically complex exploration of homophobia as a form of peer pressure. The theme of constancy versus betrayal is heartbreakingly expressed, but finally drowned in the sensational and voyeuristic tone used to portray Nut's suffering for being gay.

Thanachart Boonla's riotous lensing accentuates the contrast between the filth and sleaziness of the big city and the countryside, shot in bright compositions of blue skies and daffodil-strewn meadows. Editing is spunky. The music is so exaggerated that the violins sometimes go into convulsions.

Venue: Rotterdam International Film Festival
Production: Metro Pro-Disc, Five Star Production Company
Cast: Arak Amornsupasiri, Sikharin Polyong, Atthapan Poolsawasdi, Jessica Pasaphan, Chatchai Plengpanich
Director/screenwriter: Kongkiat Khomsiri
Based on the story by: Wisit Sasanatieng
Producer: Kiatkamon Iamphungporn
Executive producers: Chareon Iamphungporn, Aphiradee Iamphungporn
Director of photography: Thanachart Boonla
Art director: Thana Maykaumput
Music: Wild at Heart
Editor: Sunji Asavinikul
Sales: Five Star Production Company
No rating, 99 minutes
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