Sopon Sukdapist has been involved with some of the better Thai horrors in recent memory--he was the director of Coming Soon, and has writing credits on Alone and Shutter. With 2011's Laddaland, he keenly helms a sumptuously shot, well-acted ghost story with a conscience.

Laddaland follows Thee, an almost painfully well-meaning man, as he moves his family away from Bangkok and into a new house. This house, situated in an idyllic subdivision populated with palm trees, joggers, and families walking dogs, is the first they've been able to purchase, and is a great source of pride for Thee. Naturally then, as any horror-literate viewer would predict, something awful must be lurking within the walls.

In the span of a few scenes, a neighbor is found to have murdered his Burmese maid and crammed her mangled body into his fridge, prompting things to get ghostly about the whole neighborhood. The real devastation in Laddaland, however, lies in how the hauntings throw the family into turmoil, rendering the pre-existing fissures between them canyon-sized. Thee's inability to live up to his own ideal of a respectable patriarch--something he perceives as being further challenged when his wife, Parn suggests moving to flee the strange happenings--becomes the film's focus. The ghosts, of course, mirror the real-world financial and societal pressures beating down on him--issues that are terrifying enough on their own, for any working class adult.

Laddaland calls to mind two recent excellent Asian films: Ho-Cheung Pang's Dream Home, and Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Tokyo Sonata. Like Dream Home, it presents a horror-veiled satirical take on the plight of regular folk hoping to own real estate in today's economy, but its humanistic heart echoes Kurosawa's depiction of overwhelming external forces dismantling the unity of an otherwise loving family. Laddaland is good enough to overcome its aggressively sentimental final act, and is ultimately a fascinating farewell to the dream of sustaining a nuclear family in a modern world.

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