Wednesday, April 14, 2010

6:66 - Death Happens (2009)

Photo journalist Dao (Susira Angelina Nanna) is on the trace of a hot scoop in a corruption scandal. A handing-over of money she was supposed to photograph ends with a murder, and nearly her own death. The killer shoots the young woman twice in the chest, but something strange happens at that moment. Bangkok suffers from a sudden blackout, Dao's wounds just disappear and she manages to flee.

A little later, she learns that her estranged father committed suicide at the same moment she would have died. That's weird enough, but even weirder is the fact that the dead father regains his life again very suddenly, although without regaining proper consciousness. That night, nobody who dies in Bangkok seems to be able to stay dead, newborn children crawl back into their mothers and Dao has exceedingly disturbing visions of her own death.

All of this must have something to do with the research the journalist's father has been obsessed with for more than a decade, something to do with death dates and very possibly how to avoid death. Dao can't help but look for explanations for what happens to her and her surroundings, yet one can't help but think she won't like what she finds too much.

As anyone halfway familiar with the cinema of the fantastic will suspect after this synopsis, 6:66 is a Thai variation of Carnival of Souls, but one that gives its characters more agency when it comes to their dealings with death than the American film, and also one that imagines the consequences of someone's run-in with destiny as possibly influential for more than just the individual him- or herself. The latter looks to me like a difference caused by the very different cultural circumstances between the USA of the 60s and contemporary Thailand, and is what absolves this film from looking like a rip-off of the older movie. 6:66 looks at similar themes from a different perspective, but it also adds a thematic plane Carnival of Souls had no interest in whatsoever - the loss of a loved one and the guilt that comes with it.

It is this theme that is responsible for the movie's strongest and most interesting scene. There's one utterly disturbing moment where Dao visits a nurse who was once working with Dao's father. Dao's old man was trying to help the woman save her dying child, but wasn't able to, so there's only a blackened, mummified corpse the woman treats as a living child left of her daughter. If that's not an impressive (and terrible) metaphor for not being able to let go, I don't know what is.

There are other scenes nearly as strong as Dao's meeting with the nurse (the "newborn crawls back" scene definitely among them, as is the moment in which Dao finds out how much her father truly loved her, but in which the viewer should also realize how wrong his way of showing it was), but there's also a lot of problematic moments in the film. Especially Dao's death visions seem gratuitous and unnecessary and only help to strengthen the film's main weakness. This weakness is that the film pretends for most of its running time that what happened to Dao is in any form a mystery to the viewer; too much of the film is spent on revelations that will only be revelations for the most gullible and least experienced of the audience. At least, unlike in many other films, the mystery here makes sense if one is willing to accept its premises, which definitely is something. Even the final (and not obvious) twist plays mostly fair, and is really quite terrifying and appropriate when you think about it.

In the end, 6:66 contains enough interesting concepts and scenes to make it worth the while of anyone interested in horror films that try to be something beyond a revue of kills. It is not completely successful in what it is trying to do, but it fails in a worthy way.


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