Friday, July 19, 2013

Long Weekend (2013)

Original title: Thongsook 13

Nam (Cheeranat Yusanon) and her friends whom I'll dub Male Jerk One, Male Jerk Two, Female Lesbian Semi-Jerk One and Female Lesbian Semi-Jerk Two are off to a cursed island where a ceremony to appease a Devouring Ghost went very very badly a few decades ago for a nice summer weekend. One of the group's dads has bought a house there incredibly cheaply (though, one suspects, he still paid too much for it seeing what's going to happen soon). This calls for what goes as teen debauchery in Thai cinema.

The Jerks are also very happy they could get rid of Nam's regular follower, Thongsook (Chinnawut Intarakusin) for once. Even as a child, Thongsook never was quite right, able to see ghosts and only protected from possession by an amulet he has to wear all the time, but after a ghost-related incident when he and Nam were small where he hit his head, he turned from "slightly off" to actual developmental disability. Thongsook's been fixated on Nam ever since. Nam clearly isn't always quite happy with this state of affairs, but a mixture of guilt for Thongsook's accident and actual sympathy leads to her being seemingly the only person in Thailand who isn't his mother acting like an actual human being towards him. We can't say the same for the Jerks, whose behaviour can only be described using the word "total" and the word "shits". Really, I have no idea why a basically nice and kind-hearted young woman like Nam's hanging out with these people, except for the whole being in a horror movie thing.

One can imagine that the Jerks' reaction when Thongsook somehow manages to reach the island to surprise them isn't very positive. In fact, when Nam is knocked-out by a very convenient (the script is nothing if not lazy when it comes to the early set-up) painkiller pill, the male Jerks and female lesbian Jerk One play the kind of "prank" on Thongsook that people who aren't assholes would call torture. They drag him to the shrine where the ceremony once went awry and lock him into the Devouring Spirit's former cell; of course, Thongsook loses his amulet in the process. Consequently, all hell breaks lose very soon.

At first, Taweewat "SARS Wars" Wantha's Long Weekend didn't exactly endear itself to me despite a few atmospherically staged scenes, because it mostly appeared to be just another supernatural teenage slasher with a pretty lousy, generic script (and therefore the last thing I'd expected of Wantha). If you'd make a drinking game based on lazy plot ploys, you'd fall down dead of alcohol poisoning after the first twenty minutes. That impression was further exacerbated by the fact that everyone in the movie except for Nam is the kind of person who tortures and bullies the mentally disabled, which has never been the sort of thing that results in much investment in a character's fate on my side, while the whole "now these nasty people will get their comeuppance" angle always seemed like the cheapest way a horror film can go to me, the kind of thing people enjoy who take capital punishment to be a great idea.

However, once everything is set up, Long Weekend quite quickly becomes imaginative. There's no letting up between clever and pleasantly silly scare scenes at all, leaving the hopefully delighted viewer with little space to think (always a thing to be avoided in carnival ride style horror like this) or to complain. The supernatural in these scenes is decidedly weird, and quite obviously hates to repeat itself, so there's never a dull moment on screen with one crazy and energetic idea following the next before you can even think about breathing, particularly once the final thirty minutes begin racing by.

Running through everything following the set-up is a rather wicked sense of humour that for once isn't used to stop the film dead in its tracks in the typical horror comedy style but really rather goes for the short, sharp guffaw between scares in its audience. The humour is well-timed, funny, and never gets in the way of the actual fun. Why, I even laughed out loud repeatedly despite my general dislike for horror comedies, laughing, and public expressions of emotion. While it's at it, Long Weekend also squeezes in exactly the type of final twist I usually can't stand, but it does it so beautifully and - again - weirdly, I found myself rather charmed by it.

And here I thought actually watchable Thai horror cinema was dead.

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