Through the transformation of the glorious WTF-Films into the even more glorious Exploder Button and the ensuing server changes, some of my old columns for the site have gone the way of all things internet. I’m going to repost them here in irregular intervals in addition to my usual ramblings.
Please keep in mind these are the old posts without any re-writes or
improvements. Furthermore, many of these pieces were written years ago, so if
you feel offended or need to violently disagree with me in the comments, you can
be pretty sure I won’t know why I wrote what I wrote anymore anyhow.
Haunted Universities is an anthology movie made up by four stories
which are mainly connected through the presence of the same volunteer rescue
team, as well as a few other details.
The first episode, called "The Toilet" starts out with two gangsters messing
up a student and his girlfriend. It looks like the young man is trying his hands
at being a junior drug dealer, but is unsuccessful enough to make the gangsters'
boss so angry that he wants his drugs back (plus compensation for his troubles,
of course). The genius kid pusher has stored his stash in his locker at
university, so the quartet makes its way there. After the drugs are safely
recovered, one of the gangsters, Cherd, gets awfully interested in the ghost
story about the haunting of the toilet on the building's fifth floor the
students tell him.
There's certainly nothing problematic at taking a look there, right? And I'm
sure the nobody will meet one or more very enthusiastic ghosts on the fifth
floor, especially not on the toilet.
The second segment, "The Elevator", is told to Muay (Panward Hemmanee), the
youngest and only female member of the rescue crew seen in every episode of the
movie, by a student named Nok Noi (Ashiraya Peerapatkunchaya). Nok Noi is the
daughter of a general responsible for the shooting of several pro-democratic
students during the 70s. One of the older students, whose family has lost some
members during the occurrences, doesn't take too kindly to her family
connections or her rather unrepentant take on her family's guilt, so the girl
has to partake in a very special hazing ritual. Being pushed into the elevator
where the students were shot, she has some rather disturbing supernatural
experiences. But her troubles don't stop there. Now one of the student ghosts
follows her wherever she goes. She becomes convinced that it is her
responsibility to reunite "her" ghost with the ghost of his dead girlfriend, but
this is not something that can be done as easily as it sounds.
As it turns out, Muay's help will be quite indispensable.
The third story, "Morgue" is the mandatory comedy segment about a student of
dentistry (Pangsit Piseesotgan) with a terrible fear of the dead having to
survive one working night in a hospital morgue. You know what will happen.
The last segment, "The Stairway", is a flashback into Muay's past that
explains why she has the special ability which enabled her to help Nok Noi solve
Her roommate Sa (Anna Reese) meets a rather excitable young man on an
Internet chat. It's all fun and games until he threatens to kill her, but who is
afraid of random weirdoes on the 'net? Instead of getting nervous, Sa decides to
go and buy dinner for herself and Muay. While Sa is out, Muay learns that the
"random weirdo" is in fact their neighbour. Still, he seems more nerdy than
dangerous and is easily dissuaded from whatever he was planning. Alas, while
Muay talks with him, Sa has met a more suave example of the psycho species.
It turns out that Sa's new acquaintance is a friend of their neighbour, whom
he has also met on the Internet - in a chat room for budding serial killers.
Obviously, he, Internet weirdo and Sa will have to encounter each other in the
The girl would have been tough enough to cope with one psycho, but two are a
bit much for her, at least as long as she is still alive.
Haunted Universities' existence is certainly a by-product of the
commercial success of the Thai anthology movie Phobia. Both films
feature four tales of supernatural horror that seem inspired by the
crosspollination between traditional Thai ghost stories and urban myth, but they
still feel different enough that there's no reason to call Haunted
Universities a mere rip-off. Frankly, it is also just too effective a film
Instead of having four directors, Haunted Universities makes do with
only two of them - Bunjong Sinthanamongkolkul and Sutthiporn Tubtim. It's not
clear how the directing duties were divided between them, but I would not be
surprised to hear that both were working together for the whole film. Of course,
I have been known to be wrong quite frequently.
Be that as it may, the men's direction is what truly makes Haunted
Universities work. The plots of the single segments (the highly peculiar
last one excepted) are not exactly original, one could even call them rather
thin, and the connections between the segments are not much to get excited about
either, but Sinthanamongkolkul and Tubtim show a great sense for the proper
timing of horror effects that just makes the stories work.
There's some rather exciting use of colour on display too, a very pleasant
surprise after too many contemporary films insisting on looking all desaturated
all the time, as if the only colours visible to the human eye were grey, black
and a sickly yellow. Being a horror film, Haunted Universities takes
much of its colour schemes from the less exciting parts of the spectrum too, but
the directors get a lot of moody (and quite Bava) mileage out of techniques like
contrasting strong green and red tones during the intrusion of the supernatural
with warm yellows that suggest safety for the characters.
The more-than-real colouring in conjunction with the simple stories give the
film a bit of a comic book feel. This is not a realist take on the horror
anthology format, and does instead seem to stand firmly on the "pop" side of
popular culture, which is a very fine place for a film to stand when it knows
what to do there. And most of the episodes do know.
Of course, every anthology movie has to have a weaker segment, and it is more
often than not the supposedly comical one that saps all energy and fun out of
the film it appears in. As in the world of Amicus, so in the Haunted
Universities. "Morgue" really isn't all that bad, it just isn't
very funny (hint to directors: people being afraid of ghosts just isn't funny in
a horror film where they have good reason to be afraid of them). Unfortunately,
it is also the slowest segment of the bunch and drags the tempo of the whole
film down a little. It's nothing proper use of the fast forward button couldn't
Luckily, after they have bored us for twenty minutes, the directors are
sending us out with the best and most odd episode. Where the first three
segments deliver about what one expects of them, the fourth one is quite
peculiar in its plot and its delivery, culminating in the promise of a
confrontation between everyone's favourite monsters: female long-haired ghost
and serial killer. Despite its theme, "The Stairway" is no less comedic than the
film's third segment, its humour is however of a decidedly blacker type. I
always had the feeling that the story would turn on me and get nasty just after
the next grim joke, and in the end, it got even nastier than I expected before
the film ended in a very ironic sort of happy end.
Now, if a nice Western DVD label would take it upon it to publish a subtitled
DVD of Haunted Universities, friends of Thai cinema like me would
happily drop some money in its lap. I'd highly recommend it.