9 Temples 9 วัด
2010, colour, 2.35:1, 110 mins
Directed by Saranyoo Jiralak (ษรัณยู จิราลักษม์)
By Derek Elley
Fri, 04 June 2010, 16:15 PM (HKT)
Stylishly directed road-cum-horror movie that falls between too many stools for major impact. Fantasy festivals and ancillary.
Bangkok, present day. Visual designer Nat (James Alexander Mackie) and his journalist girlfriend Poon (Siraphan Wattanajinda) are both haunted by nightmarish visions involving an evil homunculus. Driving up to Chiang Mai to meet some friends, they stop over in Uthai to visit Nat's mother (Penpak Sirikul). A devout Buddhist, she urges Nat to ward off what she senses is impending bad luck by the traditional method of visiting nine temples in seven days. Nat makes light of the idea but later bumps into childhood friend Sujitto (Pradorn Sirakovit), now a monk, to whom he offers a lift to Bo Kleu village in Nan province, where Sujitto says he is to begin a pilgrimage. But as they travel on, Nat and Poon's hallucinations get worse and Sujitto says the answers will lie at the end of their journey together.
9 Temples 9 วัด (2010) is a mix of many things: a city-slickers-in-the-countryside drama, an odd-trio road movie, a woolly meditation on karma (especially the bad type), and the low-key story of a shallow girl's love for an equally shallow guy. What it definitely isn't is a regular Thai horror movie: there's almost a reluctance by first-time feature director Saranyoo JIRALAK ษรัณยู จิราลักษม์ (who began as an a.d to Nonzee NIMIBUTR นนทรีย์ นิมิบุตร and Wisit SASANATIENG วิศิษฏ์ ศาสนเที่ยง) to deliver the standard scary stuff when he could be staging a more pregnant or atmospheric dialogue scene instead.
Jiralak's experience in directing commercials ensures the audience gets a smooth ride; the problem is that none of the film's various elements is satisfyingly developed. For a start, the love story, whose dramatic undertow is partly based on the audience (but not Nat) knowing that Poon is with child, isn't especially engaging because the characters themselves — self-obsessed, partying metro types — aren't sympathetic, and the performances by Siraphan "Noon" WATTANAJINDA ศิรพันธ์ วัฒนจินดา (with a ghastly blonde dye) and half-Thai actor James Alexander MACKIE เจมส์ แม็กกี้ are only so-so. All the pious talk of karma basically means "anything can happen" and the Buddhist character, Sujitto, spends most of the movie being deliberately arcane or exchanging meaningful glances with Nat. And as a road movie, 9 Temples works way better visually than as a drama of three people on an odyssey of self-discovery.
Aside from a well-staged but mystifying opening sequence, not much happens on the horror side for the first hour, apart from brief hallucinatory inserts. However, the film does maintain an underlying tension during this section, partly through Pradorn SIRAKOVIT ภราดร ศิรโกวิท's sly performance as the monk — the best in the movie — and partly through the visuals. The use of narrow depth-of-field to heighten the characters' isolation, even in attractive, daytime locations, is unobtrusively employed by Pramett CHANKRASAE ปราเมศร์ ชาญกระแส, who was also d.p. on Wattanajinda's breakthrough movie, Dear Dakanda เพื่อนสนิท (2005). When the flashbacks, darkness and horror are ladelled on during the final 20 minutes, it's almost as if the whole of the second unit has hijacked the movie and made up its own ending.
The film's original English name, Secret Sunday, still forms part of the title logo. The improved English title simply translates the original Thai.
ContactSales: Media Asia, Hong Kong (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Theatrical release: 13 Apr. 2010.
Presented by Oriental Eyes (TH). Produced by Red Box Production (TH). Executive producer: Watcharin Suthiprapa. Producer: Sirippakorn Wongchariyawat.
Script: Teepanun Petchsri, Saranyoo Jiralak, Areeya Pornsiriwiwat. Photography: Pramett Chankrasae. Editor: Phairach Khumwan, Purin Chaichayanon. Music: Montonn Jira. Production design: Suprasit Putakham. Art direction: Karanyapas Khumsin. Costume design: Prangtip Meedet. Sound: Vanilla Sky. Special effects: QFX Workshop. Visual effects: Human Farm. Title sequence: Monai Manipantee, Chatchai Ngamsirimongkhon.
Cast: Siraphan Wattanajinda (Poon), James Alexander Mackie (Nat), Penpak Sirikul (Nat's mother), Pradorn Sirakovit (Sujitto, the monk), Nakharin Hunprasith, Chalermpol Thikamporntheerawong, Vassana Butpetch, Thidawan Hongchukiat, Pongsatorn Jongwilas, Dollach Jerngpatanaprecha, Somporn Ponpiya, Pimthong Boonbamrungsup, Pongthep Anurat, Sarit Numhan, Pongsuang Kunprasop.