Su (Karen Mok) and Chris (Ananda Everingham, Shutter)
are two strangers whose lives have been touched by tragedy. Sue has been diagnosed with lung cancer mere days before her planned wedding and Chris' longtime girlfriend has lapsed into a mysterious coma. The two learn of a real life Thai ritual in which a living person lies in a coffin to reverse bad karma. The two decide to participate in a mass "funeral for the living," and before long both of their lives have seemingly returned to normal.
Unfortunately, the good fortune doesn't last as a series of terrifying events suggests that Sue and Chris may very well have set up the universe's karmic balance to such a degree that while they may have rid themselves of bad luck they have doomed those around them.
Shot on location in Bangkok by writer/director Ekachai Uekrongtham, The Coffin
is an occasionally deeply moving and occasionally maddening indie horror feature that benefits wildly from its rather amazing locales that include actual ancient Thai spiritual grounds and an active, yes active, crematorium.
It is when Uekrongtham is being faithful to the film's Thai spiritualist roots that it is most effective, a remarkably intelligent and frightening film that also benefits from two terrific performances by co-leads Karen Mok and Ananda Everingham. It is only when The Coffin
dissipates into standard issue Asian horror that the film becomes maddeningly ordinary and even mundane in both production value and performances.
After lingering on the indie and horror fest global circuit since it's debut in 2008, The Coffin
is hitting home video on August 30th, 2011 with distrib Vicious Circle Films, the horror branch of Breaking Glass Pictures. The packaging includes rather nice extras including deleted scenes, alternate footage, cast and crew interviews and the film's international trailer.
What's bothersome most about The Coffin
is that it's such a near miss, a film with moments that are absolutely astounding and even closing scenes that are emotionally resonant and have that certain "WOW" factor that is so often absent from Asian horror these days. Yet, something along the way happened and the film that The Coffin
started out to be is not the film it becomes.
Now that's a tragedy.
Choochart Nantitanyatada's camera work is, for the most part, rather astounding despite occasionally being trapped by the film's more mundane and triped up moments. Nantitanyatada has a wonderful and disturbing knack for capturing the psychological aspects of horror through his framing and focus. Ranchata Panpayak's production design does an excellent job of capturing the lack of karmic balance, both internally and externally.
There's no question that Uekrongtham is a strong director as evidence by his previous films including the fantastic Beautiful Boxer
and Pleasure Factory.
While The Coffin
is a step below these previous films, it contains enough of Uekrongtham's mastery of emotionally resonant horror that fans of Asian horror will likely consider this a film to be seen.
For more information on The Coffin,
visit the Breaking Glass Pictures website.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic