New Thai horror “Coming Soon” certainly has an impressive pedigree, with debut director Sophon Sakdaphisit having written two of the country’s best recent genre hits in the form of “Shutter” and “Alone”, and with producer Yongyoot Thongkongtoon having worked on the recent “4bia” as well as the popular comedy “The Iron Ladies”. The film was a domestic box office hit upon its original Halloween 2008 release, boosted no doubt by its young cast, including Chantawit Thanasewee (also in “Hormones”) and pop singer Punch, here making her first screen appearance. Thankfully, their presence doesn’t mean that the film is a lightweight teen friendly affair, with Sakdaphisit doing his best to notch up plenty of honest popcorn dropping moments.
The film is set in a cinema, where cash strapped, ex-junkie projectionist Shane (Thanasewee) reluctantly agrees with his friend Yod to try and make a pirate copy of the new horror ‘Revenge of Evil Spirit’ which has just arrived for a preview screening. Unfortunately, strange things are soon afoot as Yod disappears, only for Shane to spot him on screen, his eyes having been gouged out by the film’s wicked witch villainess, Chaba. Only too aware that he may be next and that the film might be somehow cursed, he and his reluctant girlfriend Som (Punch) try to solve mystery before the evil hag gets her filthy claws on him.
Despite the film’s category III rating, it is not a particularly gory or sadistic affair. There are a handful of gruesome scenes, enough so to provide a few jolts, though in general Sakdaphisit goes for intensity rather than overt nastiness. This approach works well, mainly since the film is generally quite imaginative, making good use of the whole movie vs. reality gag for a number of well crafted scares and some creatively surreal sequences which help to disorientate the viewer along with the characters. Although this concept is obviously nothing new, and the film is basically a celluloid inspired “Ringu” variant, Sakdaphisit does manage to wrangle a few fresh twists amongst the usual clichés, and there are a couple of genuine surprises, even for hardened genre addicts. Chaba makes for a fine evil goblin, even more so during the ‘Revenge of Evil Spirit’ scenes, with the film-within-a-film itself seeming like a pretty solid genre production in its own right. The film does deserve some extra points for being one of the first genre productions to feature film pirates as its victims, who it clearly views as a bunch of miscreants undeserving of much mercy.
Sakdaphisit certainly knows his stuff, and his direction is solid and obviously genre savvy. Wisely, after a few daft false frights during the early stages he sticks to genuine scares, and although many of these are clearly lifted from the films from his own writing repertoire, they work well enough to keep the viewer on the edge of the seat. Cinemas are inherently creepy places when empty, and the film is atmospheric throughout, especially during its quieter moments. Sakdaphisit keeps things rattling along at a good pace, and the film benefits from clocking in at less than an hour and a half, leaving little room for pointless subplots or melodrama. As a result, despite the relative familiarity of the plot and some of the scenes, the film is surprisingly tense, having a nicely downbeat feel, not least since it seems to foretell the death of its male protagonist from early on. Sakdaphisit keeps his nerve, and although things don’t work out exactly as expected, the finale is both amusing and satisfyingly grim.
This helps to make “Coming Soon” one of the better Asian horrors in what has been a fairly lean few years. Although not offering anything particularly new or innovative, it serves up enough thrills and spills to keep genre fans happy, and whilst it is not quite up to the standard of “Shutter” or “Alone”, Sakdaphisit certainly proves himself to be as talented a director as he is a writer.
Sopon Sukdapisit (director) / Sopon Sukdapisit (screenplay)
CAST: Chantavit Dhanasevi