Alone (Banjong Pisanthanakun & Parkpoom Wongpoom, 2007)
Thai Title: Faet
With the strength of their first feature film Shutter (2004), directors Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom were able to momentarily deviate the attention of Asian horror film fans from Japan or Korea to Thailand, whose reinvigorated film industry remains to be one of the most promising. Shutter is just that kind of film, similar to Hideo Nakata's Ringu (1998) or Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Kairo (2001), that had all the elements traditional to Asian horror cinema (like the effective sound design, the long-haired ghosts with gait or posture problems, the subtle attack on contemporary philosophies, among others) and was able to mesh them all effectively not only for cheap and quick shocks but for prolonged disturbances. The twist in the end of Shutter is indeed clever, but unlike M. Night Shyamalan's famous twists in almost all of his films, the film never relied on it and existed independently of the devious machination.
Alone, Pisanthanakun and Wongpoom's follow-up to Shutter does not have the latter's pitch-perfect supernatural tone from beginning to end. Instead, the directing duo opts to take risks by making their audience believe they're in for a similarly-veined ghost story, when in fact, the film mines something more disturbing than vengeful spirits and murderous ghouls. Alone has for its center that unmistakable and supposedly indestructible bond between sisters, complicated further by the fact that these sisters have been conjoined since birth. Ploy, One of the sisters dies when they are separated and Pim (Masha Wattanapanich), the living twin, now peacefully living in South Korea with Vee (Vittaya Wasukraipaisan), her dedicated boyfriend, since their separation, has to deal with such guilt when she is forced to return to Thailand upon learning of her mother's dire medical condition.
Pisanthanakun and Wongpoom do not forgo the typical scares that pervade Asian horror. As the film progresses, Pim gets persisting visitations from her dead sister who with her unkempt long hair, bleeding eye sockets, and decomposing skin, seem to be a mere repeat of every other Asian horror wraith. However, the film attempts to lace the tiring trope with creativity and ingenuity. Thus, the ghost haunts from commonly used places like the empty spaces of Pim's bed, the mirror, curtains, to more ingeniously conceived places like from the slowly spinning blades of Pim's room's ceiling fan, where the immobile mangled corpse is hanging.
Alone does not match the persisting eeriness of Shutter, but the film, at the very least, manages to ease my horror-craving eyes. The film makes that significant risk to branch out from just being a ghost story in the typical post-Ringu vein, and despite being a bit far-fetched (even more so than ghouls revealing themselves in developed photographs), it actually works. It is what essentially differentiates the film from Pisanthanakun and Wongpoom's Shutter. The film, while it initially makes us believe that it relies on the supernatural, mutates, during its final ten minutes into a completely different film: mellow torture-porn (as compared to the optic nerve-cutting, fingernail-removing, and limb-slicing antics of Hostel (Eli Roth, 2005)) that is grounded on rather simplistic psychology, of violent sibling rivalries and unrequited love. Interesting enough to give the supposedly dying sub-genre a reviving nudge, I thought.