Four: Film Review

An omnibus of horror-thriller shorts that delivers some surprises and humor but hardly any scares. 

A collaboration by four Thai directors produces mixed results as a horror compilation.

HONG KONG -- Four, an omnibus of shorts with supernatural or thriller elements, is a mixed bag of clichés, niftily-plotted suspense, senseless gore and stir-crazy farce.

All are penned by Ekasit Thairat, one of Thailand’s top screenwriters who is also the author of cartoons (adapted into the critically well-received 13 Beloved and 4Phobia), the quality of his concept and scene treatment varies drastically. Two are so pedestrian they could have been scribbled by ghostwriters (no pun intended). The direction, by Thairat himself, Kongkiat Khomsin, Nasorn Panungkasiri and Chookiat Sakveerakul are up to par commercially, but there are no stand-out results.

The success of 4Phobia domestically and abroad may stimulate overseas interest in this off-shoot product. Four is unlikely to attain equally high profile as the former, although ancillary business would still be healthy. 

Four opens with Thairat’s directorial effort: Clean Up Day, which uses the recycled-to-death (pun intended) theme of a lethal virus transmitted through mobile phones. A talky, nervy piece shot with shaky handheld, it’s a boring setup to have four teenagers sputtering about global warming before everything comes to an abrupt, and poorly rationalized end. 

The Gift Shop for the One You Hate is a taut whodunit, or rather, who-bought-it. By chance, Thada enters a shop whose merchandise can “embarrass, injure or kill” the recipient. He starts to sweat over the congratulatory gifts he receives for his promotion. Khomsin externalizes the escalating paranoia in Thada’s mind by gross color contrasts and shots that seem to distort figures and objects. The “gifts” are cleverly conceived and the suspense culminates in a satisfying twist.

The overlong Eerie Nights by Panungkasiri (9 Naga) dramatizes the cat-and-mouth games between a trio of robbers that take place in an abandoned, haunted hospital. The location is thick with chilling atmosphere, but the plot is dim-witted. Even with Thai cinema heartthrob Ananda Everingham in the leading role and some nauseatingly bloody scenes, the repetitive action and clumsy pacing utterly fails to hold attention, let alone scare.

Who Ah Gong? is an adorably goofy farce that drolly satirizes the bitchy squabbles within a rich Thai Chinese family. Six freaky grandchildren are ordered to watch over their grandpa’s body according to his dying wish. Chookiat Sakveerakul (13 Beloved, Love of Siam) creates corny, low-brow slapstick that nonetheless makes one giggle more at each encounter with grandpa’s walking stiff. That’s partly because all the characters are affectionately drawn, and partly owing to the final twist which is unabashedly sweet. 

The shorts give the impression of being disparate and randomly put together, although the theme of betrayal does run through the first three. Color tones tend to be too bright or too dull, while sound is consistently deafening.

Venue: Hong Kong Filmart Industry Screenings
Sales: Sahamongkol Film International
Cast: Ananda Everingham, Titi Wechabul, Alice Tsoi, Boy Pakorn, Akarin, Alex Randell, Cooper
Directors: Kongkiat Khomsin, Nasorn Panungkasiri and, Chookiat Sakveerakul
Screenwriter: Ekasit Thairat
Producers: Prachya Pinkaew, Sukanya Vongsthapat
Executive producer: Somsak Techarataprasert
No rating,137 minutes.