If you ever happen upon my B-D blog, one thing you’ll learn is that I’m totally gay for horror movie anthologies. Watching a solid horror movie anthology is sort of like ordering one of those beer sampler trays from your local brewery: a half-dozen midget morsels of ale in 4 oz. glasses, and if one tastes sort of shitty, well, hey, that just means the next one will taste twice as good.
Phobia (4bia), a recent Thai spook-fest available only in the UK (for now), manages to provide a sampler tray of horror that‘s uniformly, surprisingly solid, with two tales in particular that rank as downright excellent. Four different auteurs are involved, but seeing as how I’m not as steeped in Thai horror as I’d like to be, I only managed to recognize Parkpoom Wongpoom and Banjong Pisanthanakun, the dudes behind Shutter.
A totally hot college girl, stuck alone in her apartment with a broken leg, begins receiving text messages from a flirty, mysterious stranger. It’s an ominous segment from writer/director Yongyoot Thongkongtoon, and he takes powerful advantage of the “Are you in the house alone?“ vibe, stretching the tension to almost unbearable limits. Somewhat reminiscent of “The Telephone”, a story in Mario Bava’s brilliant horror anthology Black Sabbath (1963). [Have you seen it?…You should.] This, along with “Last Fright”, are the two best stories in Phobia.
Tit for Tat
After being bullied to his accidental death, a black-magic-lovin’ weakling curses his tormenters from beyond the grave. Over-stylized and frantically edited in the hyper-kinetic style that Michael Bay has traditionally used to provoke migraines, Tit for Tat still has that revenge tale street cred that manages to snag your attention like a car wreck. Cheesy-as-shit CGI aside, it’s the bloodiest tale of the bunch.
In the Middle
Four camping buddies sleeping shoulder-to-shoulder in a tent in the Thai jungle wonder if those who sleep “in the middle” are the safest from danger. When one of the friends who had been sleeping “on the edge” accidentally dies the next day, the remaining buddies speculate as to possible supernatural repercussions. It’s a segment heavy with subtitled banter (much of which involves American film) and some gentle wit, but not much in the way of scares. A decent ghost story, but unremarkable.
A lone stewardess is forced to cater to an abusive and sadistic princess during a lengthy flight, only to accidentally kill the princess by serving her food that causes a fatal allergic reaction. The stewardess is later assigned with the task of accompanying the princess’ cloth-wrapped corpse on a flight to its final resting place. The fingerprints of that one classic Shatner Twilight Zone episode are all over this final story, but that doesn’t stop it from being the movie’s straight-up scariest tale.
Somehow Phobia never skirts the boundaries of mediocrity––every single story manages to entertain. Frankly, it’s the best horror anthology since Trick ‘r Treat. Not to say that Phobia can match the brilliance of Trick ‘r Treat’s ability to integrate good story-telling with our dark American traditions. Oh no. But the best horror anthology should essentially be a variety show, a veritable showcase of different horror-related talents and perspectives, with a different freak behind every curtain. And in that regard, Phobia is one hell of a fun ride.