“Art of the Devil 2”, the sequel to an obscure occult thriller which nobody appears to have seen, made quite a stir when its incredibly gory posters and trailer appeared on the internet a while back. These featured all kinds of surreal tortures, with eyes being sewn into foreheads and lizards clawing their way out of screaming victims’ bodies, and seemed to suggest that the film was a Thai answer to the “Guinea Pig” series. Unfortunately, though perhaps inevitably, since nothing could ever match the unpleasant images drummed up by its shocking adverts, the film itself turns out to be a let down, with a few inspired moments of sadistic splatter smothered by confused plotting and the bizarre belief of the directing ‘Team Ronin’ as they like to call themselves, that the viewer wants to see anything but death, death, death.
The plot is centred upon Miss Panor, a beautiful young teacher who attracts the attention of all the local men. Unfortunately, a number of them cast lust spells on her, and when a group of her students catch her in the act with their video camera, the poor woman turns to revenge. After acting on the sage advice that by consuming the flesh of those who have cursed her she can take their power for herself, she goes quite insane, which proves to be bad news for her former students, who go to visit her at her village home and end up being tortured and killed in a number of gruesome ways.
Simply put, the problem with “Art of the Devil 2” is that, aside from a great opening sequence featuring fishhooks, almost nothing of note happens for the first hour, and the viewer is subjected to endless scenes of teens talking or wandering through the jungle. The fact that half of these take place in sepia tinted flashbacks serves only to confuse matters, and the plot itself is actually quite hard to follow in places, not that anyone is likely to be interested enough to try. Although there is something to be said for attempting to present more than a simple gore film, the characters here are dull and uninteresting, and as a result the first act feels torturously long and almost ruins things entirely.
Matters are not helped by the usual Thai censorship issues which leave the lust spell aspect of the film painfully redundant. Whilst some directors have managed to tiptoe around the need for nudity, Team Ronin simply cut away before anything even vaguely sexual is seen, which all too often leaves the viewer with no idea what is supposed to have happened and further muddies the waters of the already confusing narrative.
Thankfully, around the hour mark, the directors suddenly seem to realise that they are actually making a horror film, and start to deliver the gore groceries. At this point it becomes quite easy to believe that “Art of the Devil 2” was directed by more than one person, as it undergoes a complete change in almost every aspect of style. The last half hour, as the teens are trapped and stalked by the crazed teacher sees the jungle transformed into a shadowy half-world, which makes for an atmospheric and surreal backdrop for the bloody nightmare which ensure. The death scenes are suitably horrible, with some startlingly grotesque effects which if not quite as foul as suggested by the posters, are certainly among the nastiest in recent years, with a hideous blowtorch scene which outdoes the finale of Miike’s “Audition”.
However, since the ad campaign has basically shown everything that happens, there are few surprises, and the gore scenes do lose some of their impact as a result. This does make the film somewhat of a disappointment, especially for those who have resisted the temptation to simply skip through the first hour, and unfortunately, although “Art of the Devil 2” does feature a few eye opening splatter scenes, these are very much a case of ‘too little, too late’.
Team Ronin (director) / Kongkiat Khomsiri, Yosapong Polsap, Art Thamtrakul (screenplay)
CAST: Napakpapha Nakprasitte …. Aajaan Panor
Akarin Siwapornpitak …. Paw
Chanida Suriyakompon …. Nut
Namo Tongkumnerd …. Ta
Pavarit Wongpanitch …. Go
Korakot Woramusik …. Tae