Thai horror takes to the skies and enters the third dimension with “Dark Flight” (aka “407 Dark Flight 3D”), an airborne shocker claiming to be the country’s first domestically produced 3D film – though another 2012 outing, “Mae Nak 3D” also makes a similar boast. The film is the latest from Ronin Team, best known for their ultra-nasty black magic stomach turner “Art of the Devil 2”, directed by Isara Nadee and with Kongkiat Khomsiri having worked on the script. Inspired by a devastating real life 1998 Thai air disaster that left over a hundred people dead, the film is a special effects heavy affair that stars Marsha Watanapanich in the lead, an actress singer who previously appeared in genre hits “Alone” and “Phobia 2”.
Wattanapanich plays New, a flight attendant with a tragic past, who survived a plane crash years back which she blamed on evil spirits. Her first day back on the job goes horribly wrong when strange things start to happen during a routine flight from Bangkok to Phuket, with passengers going missing and the crew being locked out of the cockpit. Trying to get to the bottom of things, it turns out that the plane is actually the same one that crashed, fixed and put back in the air, though still very much haunted by the same murderous ghosts.
In terms of story, “Dark Flight” certainly plays it safe, and sticks very closely to the usual traditions of the air disaster and Thai horror form, right down to the usual supporting cast of laughable stereotypes, inducing a camp male flight attendant, a hipster backpacker, a comically out of place and saucily clad Hong Kong girl, a Buddhist monk, a flight-phobic old woman, a fat western pervert and a family consisting of a bossy wife, nagged husband and their semi-rebellious teenage daughter. Everything plays out exactly as expected, from the early scenes of disbelief through to full on ghost assault and the final twists revelations, and there’s little here that hasn’t been seen before. Still, whilst the film is uneven in tone, Nadee keeps things moving at a decent pace, and the many clichés make for a good few moments of unintentional, though not unwelcome humour, and there’s nothing particularly grating.
Thankfully, Nadee shows the good sense to throw in an impressive amount of supernatural action, and once the plane gets into the air there’s rarely a scene which passes by without something spooky happening. Though most of the frights are telegraphed and simply revolve around ghosts jumping out at the camera, this is all pretty enjoyable, and there are a few nicely done and creative set pieces along the way. Unsurprisingly, the film is a far less bloody and more commercial affair than “Art of the Devil”, though it does pack in a few reasonably gruesome moments, enough so to give it slightly more of a punch than many other Thai horrors of late.
Despite an unconvincing plane set, the production values and special effects are generally of a satisfactory standard – just as well, since the film is heavily reliant upon CGI rather than practical effects. Having not seen the film in actual 3D it’s hard to comment upon the use of the technology, though Nadee certainly seems to have had a fine old time thrusting things at the viewer in the usual fashion.
Though lacking in ambition, “Dark Flight” nevertheless makes for undemanding genre fun, well-handled and with a respectable quotient of ghoulish goings-on. Above average by the standards of most Thai popcorn horror, it sees Isara Nadee doing a decent job in the director’s chair, and provides a pleasant diversion for fans of mid-air terror.
Isara Nadee (director)
CAST: Unchalee Hassadeevichit … Pen
Peter Knight … Bank
Paramej Noiam … Jamras
Kristen Evelyn Rossi … Michelle
Jonathan Samson … John
Sisangian Sihalath … Ann
Namo Tongkumnerd … Wave
Patcharee Tubthong … Gift
Marsha Wattanapanich … New