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Phobia – 7

Director – Banjong Pisanthanakun, Yongyoot Thongkongtoon, Paween Purikitpanya, Parkpoom Wongpoom

Cast – Maneerat Kham-uan, Witawat Singlampong, Apinya Sakuljaroensuk, Chon Wachananon, Nattapong Chartpong, Kantapat Permpoonpatcharasuk, Pongsatorn Jongwilak, Wiwat Kongrasri, Laila Boonyasak, Nada Lesongan, Plai Paramej, Wirot Ngaoumphanphaitoon, Piyakarn Butprasert

Release Year – 2008

Reviewed by John of the Dead

Like most other American horror fans I had heard of a great Thai anthology film titled Phobia (4bia) but for whatever reasons the piece was not widely available to viewers here. I remember desperately searching for a copy over the years so that I could finally see for myself whether this piece would live up to its name, and while I was not happy to wait for years I can say that I am glad to finally get this one off my queue. Horror anthology films are some of the most fun the genre has to offer thanks to them essentially providing three to four horror films in one sitting, and Phobia brings us four tales all centering around the supernatural elements often associated with Asian horror. While I should know better than to do this nowadays, I went into this piece with high expectations and hopes that I would enjoy this piece as much as I wanted to, but that was not exactly the case here. I did enjoy this one, but this was not the anthology powerhouse that I had read of and was expecting to see, but after a slow start and a great finish I was left with a positive experience in the end…barely.

The first segment, titled “Happiness”, centers around a young girl forced to reside in her lonely apartment for an extended period of time due to a leg injury she suffered during an auto accident. Late one night she receives a text message from a young man asking to befriend her, and after exchanging photographs she begins to feel him filling the lonely void that has plagued her since the injury. Of course, not all love stories are fairy tales, and she soon learns the intent behind the stranger she thinks she knows.

“Happiness” was an OK way to start the anthology, giving us elements we can all relate to as I am sure most of us have spent late night hours texting someone we hardly know, and that made this a pretty fun entry besides some cheesy faults. The story takes place mostly in one location, the girl’s apartment, and her being apartment-ridden made added to the conflict given she would not be able to run very far if her new friendship turned sour, and turned sour it did. As expected, we eventually learn the reasoning behind why the boy began texting her and desired her friendship, and it lead to a bittersweet climax. I felt that this story could have done more and been a bit less cliché, and also provided us more horror given our protagonist is an injured girl with no place to run. “Happiness” came written and directed by Yongyoot Thongkongtoon (Thai names are so much harder to spell/say than other Asian names), whose direction was about as good/bad as his writing. He provided good atmosphere and used great locations for his sets, but the horror just was not potent enough to match the good atmosphere he had to work with.

Next up is the worst entry of the film, “Tit for Tat”. When a young boy exposes his classmates for doing drugs on campus they exact revenge on him for getting them suspended, ultimately killing the boy by mistake. What follows is a vengeance-fueled story centering on the young boy’s black magic avenging his death and killing off those who took his life.

Given my love for vengeance you would assume that I’d enjoy this one right? Well, I did enjoy the vengeance part. It was great watching the young boy exact vengeance from beyond the grave, especially after seeing just how innocent and good-hearted the young boy was before his death. The writers did a great job selling his character, pulling at the viewer’s heart as he was tortured and eventually killed by the heartless bullies and their girlfriends. However, aside from the vengeance theme I found this story to be pretty odd and not as engaging as I expected it to be. There are some cool kills written into the film and it definitely had more horror than its predecessor, but once the final act of the film kicked in we are thrown through some twists and turns that I found uninteresting and sometimes downright silly, ruining what could have been a decent experience. This may be a result of “Tit for Tat” having four different writers contributing to the 30 minute story, but director Paween Purikitpanya did not do as good a job selling the film himself. We have some good gore here and there, but there was way too much lame CGI during the final sequences that hindered his horror in addition to the messy storyline.

The third installment is ‘In The Middle”, and was the campy entry in the anthology. Four young men go on a camping and rafting expedition and experience an adventure from hell when one of them dies while rafting and returns to haunt his surviving friends.

“In The Middle” comes to us written by Banjong Pisanthanakun and directed by Parkpoom Wongpoom, the two filmmakers responsible for one of the best Asian horror films of all time, Shutter. Naturally this film appealed to me given I love flicks where our protagonists trek off expecting loads of fun but instead find themselves over their heads and in a horrific situation, which is the case for most slasher films, and “In the Middle” provided enough fun for me to enjoy this one. The story begins with one of the four friends stating how if he ever died he would come back to haunt his friends, preferably the one that sleeps in the middle of the other two, and it was only fitting that after their raft capsized he was the only one to drown, or so they thought. Eventually the friend shows up and surprises the other three, but there is obviously something different about their friend: he’s dead. This was the only film to not only be “fun” but also provide some good comedy as well as we watch the three friends frantically run about the woods trying to escape their dead compadre, which eventually boils down to a climax the three never saw coming. This entry was both written and directed pretty well and made for my second favorite entry in the series thanks to good execution of the horror/scares, and some good laughs as well.

The final entry is “The Last Fright”, and was my favorite of the four stories. The last fright comes co-written by Parkpoom Wongpoom and another writer, Sopon Sukdapisit, and once again directed by Wongpoom. The story follows a young flight attendant tasked with attending to the Princess of Khurkistan onboard a Thai airline, which proves to be the most terrifying night of her life.

This was definitely the scariest entry in the piece, which is of course why I enjoyed it more than the others. It takes a little while to get going, with the flight attendant attending to the bitchy princess taking up the first half of the film, but once the princess suffers an unfortunate accident the horror and spooks kick in full throttle. 90% of the film takes place on the plane, which provides for a nowhere to run scenario that creates great tension and leaves our protagonist facing horrors that would leave me defacating my pants if I saw what she saw onboard that plane, making for an entry that was not just the best, but consisted of the level of horror that I wish all of the entries would have brought with them. The direction is solid and expertly sells the story with great atmosphere and perfect usage of the horror written into the film, Despite this being a 30 minute watch it honestly felt longer than the others because of how much I was enjoying the drawn-out horror sequences, showing that despite the other directors lagging, Parkpoom Wongpoom and directorial overseer Banjong Pisanthanakun possess talent like no other when it comes to Thai horror.

Overall, Phobia/4bia is a positive horror anthology that had it not been for the horrible “Tit For Tat” would have been a solid 8-rating. The first entry was enjoyable, the second horrible, and while the last two got better and better they were not able to elevate this piece to where it should have been. Nonetheless we are given good horror in at least two of these entries, making for one of the better Thai horror experiences and one of the better horror anthologies of recent day.

Rating: 7/10

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