I had expected a lot from this Thai horror. Currently being remade by Hollywood, in the last few years it has gathered many a positive review. However watching it didn't bring anything new, and relied on the tricks and style we've now come to expect from Asian horror.
That said, it doesn't make the film an entirely bad one. It is very effective at what it sets out to do, to creep you out and scare you.
The story concentrates on a couple who are involved in a hit and run late one night. Once they awaken after the accident they realise that they've knocked down a girl and she's not moving. With panic in their heads and darkness on their side they flee before anyone can see them.
The girl isn't done with them though, and she begins to appear in photographs they take, first as a shadowy mark, and then her face begins to appear. Before long she's appearing in more than photographs and it seems she wants revenge.
From there the story progresses much as you would expect if you've seen some Asian horror before. Even scenes and the surprising shock moments are similar.
Yet there are a couple of things going for the story, first the ending isn't all you'd expect, and it surprised me. No, that's not quite right, it didn't really surprise me in the shock kind of way, just that it kept going onto further reveals that you would have expected.
Then there are the actors, both leads give very convincing performances which pull you into the characters. Then there are the scare moments which are incredibly effective.
Although you'll have seen many of constituent parts of these scenes before, the Director does a great job of using the camera and the music to heighten the tension and suspense. A number of times during the film I found myself quite tense and trying to anticipate the scare so I wouldn't actually be.
I was luckier than some in the audience who didn't quite manage it and were audibly and visibly caught out.
The story is very clever, once you progress through the more standard Asian horror plot. The latter parts of the plot really do develop well, and the whole use of the spirit photographs really does tap into an area of the human psyche that does tend to freak us out.
Yet during the film the story did seem quite jerky and leapt about a fair bit. A number of times I did find myself wondering where this scene had just opened on, why the characters were here and what direction the story was taking now.
You do tend to find you catch up during the scene, but sometimes I was left wanting a short segway or a bit more of an explanatory scene.
Once the main plotline is passed over and we move into the strength of the twists of this story, you do find that everything seems far too rushed. I think there could have been a lot more made of these surprise moves and perhaps they could have been built even larger than they came across.
There are some excellently constructed scary scenes though, and even if we have seen them before the sink slow reveal is perhaps the best. This is the kind of scare I love most in horror films, the slow build and reveal. I first saw it in Ringu with the well, but every time I see it applied to a spirit appearing I can't help but get freaked out.
There are also some really poor moments. The car racing ahead with the spirit appearing at the window was pretty poor and highly amusing, and the hotel chase scene left me exasperated at the incredibly bad judgement of the character. Hasn't anyone in the film world learnt the rules yet?
Still all in all it's a strong horror that takes some of the best aspects of Asian horror and applies them well. Combining the incredibly spooky idea of spirit photographs and of the closing reveals, you do find yourself creeped out and at times quite scared.
I'd actually be interested to see what Hollywood does with the remake, and if they can serve some intelligence to it to improve on the Asian horror aspects rather than just slice it and dice it into Hollywood Horror.