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Rage of the spurned ex

A hit Thai horror confirms the stereotype of angry, vindictive dead females

Published: 4/09/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: Realtime

Fan Kao

She won’t let you go: Shahkrit Yamnam faces the wrath of his ex in Fan Kao.

(The Ex)

Starring Shahkrit Yamnam, Wanida Termthanaporn, Atawa Cheewanijapan. Directed by Piyapan Choochart. In Thai with English subtitles.

The ghost of girlfriends past is a trope well-trodden in the catalogue of Thai cinema. Angry dead wives - or exes, in the case of this shoddy, thinly-written Fan Kao (The Ex) - have the paradigmatic lore in the tale of Mae Nak, the pregnant mother of Phrakanong who came back from death to live with her husband. In good hands, the wrath of female spirits so commonly depicted in Asian horror flicks, from Indonesian to Thai and Japanese, becomes a statement for feminine justice taxed against their male wrongdoers. But in lesser movies, the stubborn, vengeful she-ghosts confirm the sexist image of the neurotic, hysterical, vindictive female score-settling. Jealousy, these films suggest, is more powerful than death.

Which is exactly what Fan Kao is all about. Conceived as a story of karmic retribution, the movie unwittingly becomes an exhibition of a posthumous bitchfest, as dead and live women brawl for the same man, who, true to form, is a major asshole. After a week in the cinemas, Fan Kao cruised past the 50-million-baht mark in revenue - a success I attribute to the title. Certainly it clicks with all exes, female or male, since isn't everyone someone's?

The coveted man in the movie is Ken (Shahkrit Yamnam), a disturbing mix of a cad, jerk, and sentimentalist (at least near the end). Ken is a famous actor hounded by the paparazzi who clamour to snap pictures of him with his roster of sexy women. When the film begins, we see Ken heartlessly spurn one of his lovers, Meen (Atawa Cheewanijapan), upon learning that she's pregnant. Then we learn that as he's dating his co-star, Ploy (Wanida Termthanaporn), he has a cache of another young ex hidden neatly in the folder of his iPhone. Her name's Bo (Nawadee Mokaves), and Bo, while sobbing and imploring Ken to come back to her, is crushed to death in a horrible accident that's one of the film's many moments of calculated shock.

Thus Ken finds himself stalked not only by tabloid photographers but also by an invisible claw, supposedly the deceased Bo's (still in her university uniform), while Meen and Ploy won't leave him alone either. The mortal battle to win this man gets uglier and bloodier, and the film's weakness lies mainly in this simplistic view of women; they're unreasonable creatures blinded by love that and even death cannot quell their feminine rage. The ghosts in Fan Kao don't commit crimes of passion - that at least would be romantic - but crimes of spite and idiocy, a lower degree of vice if there is one.

As an attempt to inject new horror into the thoroughly plundered graveyard, Fan Kao relies predictably on the time-worn techniques of jumpy sound effects, quick cutting with a truuuuum!, mysteriously broken glasses and putrid faces of otherwise beautiful women (all of them long-haired - a short bob isn't feminine enough to express feminine jealousy). In short, you realise a few seconds before the actual moment of shock arrives: Fear is prefigured and deaths foretold.

Shahkrit Yamnam gives a serviceable performance as a callous womaniser finally learning his lesson. Watch Wanida "Gybzy" Termthanaporn, singer of the sexy pop-group Girlie Berry, who plays Ken's latest conquer, Ploy. In July, we saw her in Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Nang Mai, in which she plays a distraught wife and defies cynical dismissal that she's all looks and no talent. Here she's reduced to a pretty prop. Wanida has proved her worth as an actress; now she has to make sure she gets a director who can appreciate what she really is.

Relate Search: Fan Kao, Shahkrit Yamnam, Atawa Cheewanijapan, Wanida Termthanaporn

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