Director: Phontharis Chotkijsadarsopon
Cast: Bhuvadol Vejvongsa, Timethai Plangslip, Pongsatorn Sripinta, Nutcha Jeka, Day Thaitanium
Runtime: 1 hr 35 mins
Rating: PG13 (Horror)
Released By: Clover Films and Cathay-Keris Films
Opening Day: 7 January 2016
Synopsis: “Ghost Ship” is a horror starring teenage cast as three Mon sailors on a large fishing vessel, adrift in the dark, mysterious sea. They’re Kala, Yola and Solui, and their high-sea adventure begins when they discover the corpse of a woman, who turns out to be the wife of a mafia leader who controls the harbour. The sailors are in a tight situation, because they know that the woman they found was also the lover of Nick, the son of their captain. Who killed her? How did her corpse end up on the ship? How will the mafia react? If news of the corpse found on board leaks, will the trio be accused of murder? The three young men decide to hide the corpse, but things get horrifying when the corpse disappears. Soon, strange incidents keep happening to the sailors, and they’re convinced that there are more than just one ghost haunting the ship. Worse, they can’t run, as they’re in high sea and being haunted by vengeful spirits.
A useful rule of thumb to differentiate the wheat from the chaff of Thai horror movies is to look out for the GTH label – indeed, if history is any guide, any horror that doesn’t come from the GTH studio is more often than not of questionable merit. It is with such bias that we approached ‘Ghost Ship’, a film that as its title suggests is about a vessel – a cargo ship, to be more exact – whose occupants find themselves in some otherworldly company after some of them stumble upon a female corpse on board. To be sure, ‘Ghost Ship’ isn’t a GTH title, but it does hail from one of the very first and oldest film companies in Thailand known as Five Star Production, so there is perhaps reason to be a little more hopeful of its quality.
Alas, it is with hindsight that we would advise against approaching Phontharis Chotkijsadarsopon’s film with any more than the lowest of expectations. This is Chotkijsadarsopon’s feature filmmaking debut, and it pretty much shows from start to finish in terms of continuity, framing and plain old-fashioned storytelling. Even on a very fundamental level, scenes flow awkwardly into each other, characters don’t quite know their sense of place relative to each other from angle to angle, and there are more than a few logically baffling moments that will leave you feeling incredulous. Oh yes, these are pretty much very basic flaws of an inexperienced filmmaker, and in ‘Ghost Ship’, they are unfortunately more scarily omnipresent than the ghosts on board.
Speaking of which, we might as well tell you that the female corpse which a trio of three Mon sailors, Kala (Bhuvadol Vejvongsa), Solui (Timethai Plangslip) and Yola (Pongsatorn Sripinta), discover early on is really no more than a red herring. That “body” happens to be of Mia (Nutcha Jeka), the wife of a powerful and ruthless gangster named Tao (Day Thaitanium) who is having an affair with the captain’s son Nick. Soon after they go into a frantic fit debating whether Nick might have murdered Mia in a jealous rage, Mia turns up surprisingly alive, smuggled on board by none other than Nick who plans to elope with her when the ship makes a midpoint stop to refuel and replenish its supplies.
That doesn’t mean that there is nothing our hyperactive trio need be afraid of; rather, it simply means it becomes quite clear very early on that there is something else going on involving the veteran captain, his right-hand man Nhong and another fellow sailor named Bie. It is this little secret that Chotkijsadarsopon keeps us in suspense about until the last act, when a whole assortment of hideous looking spirits run amok aboard the ship for good reason. Admittedly, there is a more engaging story here than one would probably have expected at the start, though some of the twists do come at the expense of credulity – such as one late into the film which reveals that one of the three is not who he says he is – and are further compounded by bad execution.
Even an energetic cast cannot quite distract from the amateurish quality of the entire production, which is no better than the sort of grindhouse flick many studios were making countless unmemorable ones of during the 1970s. Worse still, Chotkijsadarsopon seems incapable of mounting even one good scary sequence, and besides having them ghosts pop up all over the place without any sort of purpose or pattern, he sacrifices any genuine frights in favour of a breakneck pace that lurches haphazardly from one group of characters to the next. This is also why the love story between Nick and Mia, which is supposed to be the emotional anchor on which the film rests, pretty much sinks like a stone despite being played by two very attractive actors.
Like we said at the start, if it doesn’t bear the GTH label, it is more likely than not to suck – and ‘Ghost Ship’ is yet another example that the Thai horror genre is stuck in the doldrums. The idea of a group of people trapped on a haunted ship may seem like a good premise, but that promise is largely wasted on a film that tries too hard to be smart and funny at the same time without being able to get the very basics of filmmaking right. It is, like its subject, adrift in its own failings, and pretty much an empty vessel devoid of laughs or scares.
(Yet another disappointing Thai horror that tries to be smart, funny and scary at the same time, while accomplishing none of the above in the process)
Review by Gabriel Chong