Scoffing to myself of the idea of watching a subtitled Thai anthology, I can only look back and kick myself in the ass. In my eyes Phobia 2 is hands down a bigger winner of the fest. While Shutter is probably the best horror film out of Thailand, I wasn’t a huge fan of Alone, thus I felt like directing duo Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom were on their way out. I was dead wrong.
Phobia 2 features five short films that compile what I believe is the second best horror anthology in the past ten years (Trick ‘r Treat is still better), thus proving that anthologies can still deliver the goods (the best part is that they’re only 20 minutes each, so if one sucks, it’ll be over before you fall asleep).
The first short, “Novice”, was directed by Paween Purijitpanya (Body, 4BIA). The chilling tale takes to the forest where a juvenile teen (he killed someone by throwing a rock in their car window) is in hiding as a Buddhist monk (they can’t be arrested). There he learns the legend of the Hungry Ghost, which is portrayed as giant H.P. Lovecraftian trees (done with what looked like incredible stop motion animation). The short features a few jumps, scares and incredible creepy moments (one that had the theater out of their seats). The twist doesn’t quite deliver the goods, but the ride is definitely worthwhile.
The worst of the five shorts was Visute Poolvoralaks’s “Ward”, a tale of soul hopping demon that has one or two good scares. Visually striking, with the best sound design of the anthology, its biggest failure is the finale, which was a big let down. Songyos Sugmakanan’ (Dorm) “Backpackers” tells the story of a pair of hitchhikers who end up in the middle of nowhere during a zombie attack. The screenplay was extremely strong as it managed to translate into a compelling (unique) story with colorful characters in only 20 minutes. Oh yeah, and it’s f*cking bloody! Parkpoom Wongpoom’s (Shutter, Alone, 4BIA) “Salvage” was another short that was engaging, but falls flat in the twist. It tells the story of a car dealer who is selling “fixed” cars that were demolished in accidents. The souls of the deceased get revenge in a sort of rude and unnecessary way.
The first four shorts are just the warm up, the appetizer, the horse de vours if you will – Banjong Pisanthanakun’s (Shutter, Alone, 4BIA) “In the End” delivers some of the best 20 minutes of film I’ve ever seen. The best way to describe the short would be to compare it to Scream, and it’s without a shadow of a doubt better than the sequels. Smart, funny, scary, and captivating, “In the End” deserved to be so much more than a short. It’s a completely self-aware screenplay that constantly tops itself until the very last frame. Way more intellectual than a spoof, Pisanthanakun’s short film takes loving jabs at the genre (in a scene where an actress is playing a ghost, the director asks the assistant to comb more black hair in her face because it’s “scarier”), while also finding a way to make it intensely engaging throughout. If I were just reviewing “In the End”, this would easily get a perfect score….