Thursday, July 1, 2010

In short: Cadaver (2006)

Medical student Mai (Natthamonkarn Srinikornchot) is just reaching the rather unpleasant part of her education that concerns itself with a young person's first autopsy. Even before the cutting fun can begin, Mai is nervous and out of sorts about it.

Things aren't getting better for the girl when Mai begins to see visions of a female ghost and repeatedly flips out right in class. Only the friendly intervention of her teacher Dr. Prakit (Nirut Sirichanya) saves the young woman from getting pressed into a different major before one can even say "physicians here have no psychological insight at all".

The ghost is not getting less persistent, it does however make itself a little clearer over time, clear enough that Mai can do a little research and realizes that the ghost belongs to a girl named Ning. Ning just happens to have been the girl Mai's boyfriend Tos wanted to leave her for. Now, both Ning and Tos have disappeared, the only explanation for their absence being a letter Ning supposedly wrote to Dr. Prakit.

It might just be that Mai is suppressing her memories of a terrible secret.

Dunyasit Niyomkul's Cadaver (or Sop in the original Thai) has a lot of things going for it. It's slickly directed, has a properly elegiac mood and a young lead actress who is going all out in a good way when it comes to melodramatic break-downs or nervous staring. At first, the film's script makes a good impression, too, at least when one - like me - belongs to the part of the horror movie audience that respects slow and atmospheric films more interested in character-based terrors than gore or shock.

However, after half the film is over, it has already become quite clear what Mai's secret is and what the ghost wants from her, yet the film still insists to drip-feed the obvious to its audience. The longer that sort of tactic goes on, the more difficult it becomes for me to keep focused on a film. The pace slows down to a crawl at that point, and - although the film does still look slick and Srinikornchot does still play well enough - I can't help but get the feeling that the film was now just trying to somehow turn forty minutes of plot into ninety minutes of film without having any concept of how to do it.

A movie going for a less subtle approach would probably have had it easier here. After all, when you're making a kill revue or a series of creepy scenes, you "just" need to kill a few more people on-screen or crib one of the billions of creepy standard set-ups of Asian horror and you might just get away with it, but when you have said all there is to say about a character in a character piece, you just don't have anywhere else to go.

The second half of Cadaver is just treading water, pretending to say something, anything it hasn't already said, but probably fooling no one.


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