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4BIA (Thailand)

  Publicity Stills of
(Courtesy of GV)

In Thai with English Subtitles
Director: Yongyoot Thongkongtoon, Paween Purijitpanya, Banjong Pisanthanakun, Parkpoom Wongpoom
Cast: Laila Boonyasak, Maneerat Kham-uan, Apinya Sakuljaroensuk, Witawat Singlampong
RunTime: 2 hrs
Released By: GV
Rating: NC-16 (Disturbing Scenes)
Official Website: www.4biamovie.com

Opening Day: 21 August 2008


4BIA is a portmanteau horror flick consisting of 4 horror stories directed by 4 of Thailand’s most talented directors. The first, directed by Yongyoot Thongkongtoon is titled “Happiness” but don’t let the title of the movie mislead you. “Tit For Tat” directed by Paween Purijitpanya (Body) gives a mystically dark and gruesome twist to the meaning of “an Eye for an Eye”. Then there is “In The Middle” directed by Banjong Pisanthanakun (Shutter and Alone) and his teenage tale that totally walks off the Buddhist beaten path and on to a horrifyingly humorous escapade that may leave you laughing more than ‘shuttering’, excuse the pun. Finally “Last Fright” directed by Parkpoom Wongpoom (Shutter, Alone) is a psychological thriller that reminds all of us of the old adage "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” except if you are the ‘other’ woman on the receiving end.

Movie Review:

4Bia’s premise is this- four up and coming Thai directors, each with their unique style, shoot their own short film revolving around the theme of fear (or as the title implies “phobia”). The idea may sound gimmicky, but the result is anything but.
Instead, 4Bia is an utterly delectable meal of horror, each tightly shot film a morsel of delight in itself, but also complimenting each other, so that the whole is truly more than the sum of its parts, ultimately leaving its viewer hungry for more.

First on the menu is Yongyoot Thongkongtoon’s “Happiness”, who is probably better known for directing action comedies such as The Iron Ladies and Metrosexual. Here director Thongkongtoon, who also wrote the segment, begins the story rather innocuously with a young woman, confined to her apartment with a broken leg in a cast after surviving a horrific car crash. Alone and lonely, she grabs the chance to make contact with a stranger who starts texting her. Things get creepy when she sends him her picture and he in turn sends her his.

Thongkongtoon’s greatest achievement in “Happiness” is how he successfully builds up an atmosphere of uneasy and dread without any dialogue. Instead of resorting to narration or voiceover, we simply read the exchange of messages on screen as they are received. All this adds up to a very satisfying climax that manages to tie up the various elements in the story nicely.

Next up is Paween Purikitpanya (Body #19)’s “Tit For Tat”, which coming after “Happiness” may be a rather jarring change. While “Happiness” is content to take its time building up its story, “Tit For Tat” thrusts its viewers straight into the story of a kid who returns to exact vengeance using black magic on a gang of bullies.

While this is no killjoy, “Tit For Tat” is probably the weakest of the lot. Its Saw-like frenetic shots and schizophrenic editing can get quite grating after a while, and it borders on an overdose of CGI in its climax. Thankfully, though, it proceeds at a gallop so it still makes for a gripping and intense piece of work.

Coming after the occasionally nauseating “Tit For Tat” is the refreshing crowd-pleaser “In The Middle”. The story begins at night with four friends on a rafting trip in a tent outdoors who, like most people would do to kill time in the wild, start telling each other ghost stories. Each of them ends up joking about what they would do if they turned up dead, with one of them saying that he would haunt the person sleeping in the middle, hence the title.

The next day, while out rafting, their boat capsizes. Only three of them manage to make it out alive, and by nightfall, they give up the search for their missing friend. But soon after they try to fall asleep, their friend returns. However, they are confronted with the nagging fear that their friend may very well be dead.

Scripted and directed by one-half of the “Shutter” duo Banjong Pisanthanakun, “In The Middle” delights with its well delineated characters. It is not easy to create characters that audiences can easily recognize within half an hour, let alone four. But Pisanthankun has done just that, giving each character a uniquely distinctive personality.

“In The Middle” also benefits tremendously from Pisanthankun’s clever blend of humour and suspense. He deftly alludes to clichés often used in modern day horror movies, and even though audiences may think that they are one step ahead of the story, he manages to deliver a satisfying jolt at the end. My personal favourite, I would go so far as to say that this segment alone is worth the price of admission.

The final course of the meal is Shutter’s other half, Parkpoom Wongpoom’s “Last Fright”. A deliberate pun on the word “flight”, it tells the story of a flight attendant Pim who is summoned back to work on a royal flight for a princess who is having marital difficulties. Not to spoil the surprise, things get personal and testy between them during the flight. The princess dies unexpectedly the next day and Pim finds herself escorting the princess’ body back. Suffice to say that turbulence will not the only thing that goes bump on the flight.

“Last Fright” is definitely not the best of the four, but it maximises its unique setting on board a turbulence-rocked empty plane. The claustrophobic inducing setting enhances the sense of dread and helplessness that Pim faces and is probably the best thing that this closing segment has going for it. While the story may seem pedestrian, it still is a solidly made piece of work.

As far as horror anthologies go, 4Bia is easily one of the best of its kind. Perhaps also because of their brevity, each of the four segments are always engaging and the sum of it all is one of the most accomplished Thai horror movies of late.

Movie Rating:

(A four-course meal of fear prepared by four fine Thai up and coming directors make for one of the most delicious Thai horror movies of late)

Review by Gabriel Chong


. The Screen at Kamchanod (2007)

. The House (2007)

. Body #19 (2007)

. Alone (2007)

. Colic (2006)

. Shutter (2004)

. The Unseeable DVD (2006)

. The Spiritual World DVD (2007)

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