Fantasia 2010: PHOBIA 2 Review

[Niels' review of Thai Horror Anthology, PHOBIA 2 is getting a bump back up to the top of the page to coincide with its  screening at Fantasia.]

Thai horror is doing good for itself. Proof of that is the second installment of the Phobia anthology project. This time around 5 directors get the chance to show their skills in a set of horror-themed shorts. Three of the original crew return, the other two are fresh meat. Bottom line: the sequel is every bit as good as the first one.

The first Phobia was an anthology project driven by the name recognition of the directors of Shutter and Alone. It was a lovely set of horror films displaying the skills of the directors involved. Thai horror is one the rise, blending Asian suspense (ghosts and specters) with European gore (they will not frighten you to dead but beat you to a bloody pulp) and effectively pleasing fans of both sub genres.

The concept is the same as the first film. Five directors get the chance to show their vision on horror (or horror-related) cinema. Where the first film still tried to link the four short stories together, this time around they exist separately from each other. Even though the connection in the first film was a rather fun extra, it is not something that is actually missed while watching Phobia 2.

Starting off the second anthology is Purikitpanya, who directed my favorite short of the first film. Again, he delivers the best short, though his style is more subdued this time around. I actually prefer his more extreme, vivid style to the one on display here, but it's still very clear the man has a sublime eye for gorgeous shots. It is a pretty simple story about a boy being haunted in a forest, but the imagery on display really turns it into something special. You could not wish for a better start.

Poolvoralaks takes place in the director's chair for Ward, second short of the film. A pretty short but fun interlude about a boy hospitalized after a crash. He ends up in the wrong room, sharing it with a near-dead leader of a cult (or sect, or whatever). The man is dying but not planning to leave our planet yet, eagerly looking for a new body to use. Not really scary or gory, but quirky and amusing.

The middle part is helmed by Sugmakanan who delivers a true Asian zombie flick. Two Japanese backpackers end up on the wrong truck and fall at the mercy of two local smugglers. Things get messy when their cargo (a trunk full of people and drugs) ends up dead, but only for a short while. Sugmakanan's direction is impressive, though not exactly original. Still, there are some truly gripping moments, especially the unloading of the bodies and the car crash will stick with you for some time after the movie.

The fourth short is in the hands of Wongpoom, first of the Shutter/Alone duo. Sadly, his short is the least interesting of the bunch. Not exactly bad, but the concept is pretty stale, the execution just barely lifting it above average. The setting is a garage where crashed cars are sold for new. The victims of the crashes decide to take revenge on the saleswomen, resulting in some ghostly appearances spruced up with a tad of gore. Not bad, some nice imagery, but there are just so many films already that do exactly the same, only better.

Finishing off is Pisanthanakun, the other part of the famous duo. For his short he revives the three geeks from the first film, placing them on the set of Twins 2 (a fake sequel to Alone). It is obvious from the very start that Pisanthanakun aims to make fun of the genre, and he does so with plenty of winks and smirks. It's a pretty good thing he's also able to place his own work in perspective, a welcome touch of humor that lifts the film far above the average. Some crazy twists and truly funny moments make this one to look out for. Think Scream, only way funnier.

The result is an anthology with no weak entries, though Wongpoom's short felt a little too lazy for its own good. All the other shorts are interesting in their own right and bring something valuable to the whole. After two films Purikitpanya is clearly my favorite, followed by Pisanthanakun who displays a great sense of humor and makes sure it's not all guts and gore.

Phobia is a good start for people interested in Thai horror, though it does lack the truly gory stuff that resides in many of it's full-length competitors. Still, both films are projects with quality output and a varied selection of stories and styles. Phobia 2 does not disappoint and keeps you entertained for 2 hours. Definitely recommended.
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