Toronto After Dark 2007: Alone review
Pim, a young Thai woman, returns to home from Korea after her mother is hospitalized. Soon after her arrival she is plagued by visions of her sister Ploy, a conjoined twin who didn’t survive the surgery to separate the pair, a procedure Pim insisted on. At first there are doubts if her visions are real and perhaps her return to Thailand has brought up old memories and guilt. Those doubts are quickly casted as Ploy becomes more forceful in her appearances, and more violent. It would appear the dead sister is out for bloody revenge and wishes to be reunited with her sister once again.
Directors Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom join forces once again and continue to build a resume of films that will soon anoint them as Thailand's horror film kings. With Alone they trade in the creepy and subtle atmosphere of Shutter and up the ante with the damn scary in their follow up film. Having not sacrificed anything in the ways of content or intelligence in their sophomore collaboration Alone is a scarier film than Shutter and may end up proving more approachable for a wider audience who is looking to spend less time in their seats.
When you are presented a story whose central characters are twins your mind almost immediately begins to process ever detail and note any nuance that might distinguish the two because you may be expecting a twist in the plot or a surprise revelation in the final act. What our directors do is carefully dangle clues of information to help this along. They always have you thinking up until the very end. Through flashbacks we see hints of malice in one of the girls. Through these flashbacks we also learn how the once beautiful relationship between the sisters transformed in to a repressive bond that forces one to ask for her mother's support for a separation. This is not only a physical separation but a mental one too as one personality begins to distinguish itself from another.
And there are subtle things visually like reflections in the double mirrors at the girl’s vanity tables; you would notice that you could see the set reflected in one and darkness in the other. Pay attention to the proximity of Ploy when she appears near to her sister. Pisanthanakun and Wongpoom likely knew making this film that we’d be looking at all the details or perhaps we’d thought we’d figured the twist before the end. Leaving clues like these will please the thinker who is watching this movie and keep them thinking long enough to distract them until the next scare.
Visually the directors are in top form. Alone is not an ugly film. The directors brought back their talented cinematographer from Shutter, Niramon Ross, and the visuals are as strong as ever. Pisanthanakun and Wongpoom are well versed in pace and in a ghost film that is dependent on the quality of the scares they know just how long to suspend the moment before Ploy makes her next appearance. Alone has a strong story and an equally strong cast dealing with recognizable themes such as rivalry between sisters, romantic jealousy and family guilt.
In Alone it’s not about the destination as much as it’s about the journey you took to get there. In Hollywood when an original horror movie is successful it is surely followed up with degenerate sequels that no long hint at the intelligence or smarts of their predecessor. Now imagine if you will that Pisanthanakun and Wongpoom have taken the same approach but instead of making their sophomore effort any less intelligent they simply choose a different approach in which to make you fell the chills of vengeful spirits. In doing so I think they have made a more commercially favorable film but they have sacrificed none of their pride or artistic merit. Alone is a ghost story that can play in the big box theatres or the small rep theatres and be wildly accepted in both.
You may never hug your pillow or turn you ceiling fan on at night again!