ContactSales: Gmm Tai Hub, Bangkok (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Theatrical release: Thailand, 28 Mar 2013.
Presented by Gmm Tai Hub (TH). Produced by Jor Kwang Films (TH). Executive producers: Paiboon Damrongchaitham, Saithip Montrikul Na Audhaya, Visute Poolvoralaks, Jina Osothsilp. Producers: Vanridee Pongsittisak, Chenchonnee Soonthornsaratul, Suvimon Techasupinun.
Script: Nontra Khumvong, Chantavit Dhanasevi, Banjong Pisanthanakun. Photography: Naruphol Chokanapitak. Editing: Thammarat Sumethsupachok. Music: Chatchai Pongprapaphan, Hualampong Riddim. Production design: Arkadech Keawkotr. Art direction: Toey Jaruwateekul. Costume design: Suthee Muarnwacha. Sound: Sanya Chaiyapet, Traithep Wongpaiboon, Nopawat Likitwong. Visual effects: Chutima Lertpattaraworachart.
Cast: Mario Maurer (Pee Mak/"Mark"), Davika "Mai" Horne (Nak), Nattapong Chartpong (Ter), Pongsatorn Jongwilas (Puak), Attharut Kongrasri (Shin), Kantapat Permpoonpatcharasuk (Aey), Sirinuch Petchurai (Auntie Priek), Sean Jindachot (Ping, her son), Yong Lukyee, Nimit Luksameepong, Satdha Satdhathip.
Pee Mak พี่มาก..พระโขนง
Period comedy horror
2013, colour/b&w, 2.35:1, 107 mins
Directed by Banjong Pisanthanakun (บรรจง ปิสัญธนะกูล)
By Derek Elley
Fri, 26 July 2013, 09:15 AM (HKT)
Thai smash hit is much more goofy comedy than horror, though it's well packaged. Asian and genre events.
Phra Khanong district, Bangkok, the Rattanakosin Kingdom, early 19th century. After serving in the army, and almost being killed at the front, Pee Mak (Mario Maurer) invites his four closest comrades to visit his home by the Phra Khanong canal and meet his wife Nak (Davika "Mai" Horne), who's given birth to a baby boy while he was away. Nak is not too happy when Mak says his friends - Ter (Nattapong Chartpong), Puak (Pongsatorn Jongwilas), Shin (Attharut Kongrasri) and Aey (Kantapat Permpoonpatcharasuk) - can stay in an empty house on the opposite bank that his late aunt used to own. She's even less happy when Mak wants to start wearing his Buddha amulet again. Next day, in the market, the locals all seem scared of Mak; then one of them, drunken inn-owner Auntie Priek (Sirinuch Petchurai), blurts out that Nak is a ghost. That night, while drinking with his friends, Shin feels haunted by Nak's presence, and next day Ter stumbles across a buried corpse that appears to be Nak's body. However, even though they all try to warn Mak, he remains oblivious to the fact that his wife may be a ghost, having died giving birth to their son Dang.
Though it's an enjoyable enough comedy-horror, and smoothly packaged, nowhere does smash hit Pee Mak พี่มาก..พระโขนง scream "highest-grossing Thai film of all time" in either its script, direction or performances. Taking well-known folk tale Mae Nak that's already seen numerous movie versions — most famously Nonzee NIMIBUTR นนทรีย์ นิมิบุตร's Nang Nak นางนาก (1999) — popular director Banjong PISANTHANAKUN บรรจง ปิสัญธนะกูล has tweaked the material into a melange that's part horror-spoof, part knockabout comedy and finally a love story. Pitched more at younger audiences, with its modern references, than is usual for period Thai ghost stories, it's basically a goofy comedy spun round a well-known yarn, with a slight twist at the end to keep things fresh. Real scares are very thin on the ground.
Horror specialist Pisanthanakun is best known for co-directing and co-writing local hits The Shutter ชัตเตอร์ กดติดวิญญาณ (2004) and Alone แฝด (2007), and also contributed episodes to the portmanteau films 4bia สี่แพร่ง (2008) and Phobia 2 ５ แพร่ง (2009). But he also took a complete break from the genre with the charming rom-com Hello Stranger กวน มึน โฮ (2010), centred on two young Thai tourists who are thrown together in South Korea. Thanks in part to its two likeable leads, Chantavit DHANASEVI ฉันทวิชช์ ธนะเสวี and newcomer Nuengthida SOPHON หนึ่งธิดา โสภณ, Stranger proved Pisanthanakun was also capable of drawing fresh performances in subject-matter that was entirely character-based. The same writing team of Nontra KHUMVONG นนตรา คุ้มวงศ์, Dhanasevi and Pisanthanakun are also behind Pee Mak, so it's no surprise the movie is hardly a regular period ghost story.
The main change to the folk tale — a soldier, Pee Mak, returns from the front to find his wife Nak died during childbirth and is now a ghost — is introducing a comic chorus of four army friends who accompany the husband home. Pisanthanakun has cannibalised his own movies here, using the same names (Ter, Puak, Shin, Aey) and actors who appeared in his 4bia episode The Man in the Middle and Phobia 2 episode In the End. Just by having a comic chorus broadens the thin original tale; but with the quartet on screen and over-acting almost the whole time, they take over most of the movie as well.
Starting off with a goofy tour-de-force in an army tent, Pongsakorn JONGWILAS พงศธร จงวิลาส, with a haircut that looks like a large moth has landed on his head, dominates the quartet as a kind of Thai HUANG Bo 黃渤. The only other one who runs him a close second (and doesn't have an equally out-of-period haircut) is Attharut KONGRASRI วิวัฒน์ คงราศรี, as a top-knotted dunce who also fancies Mak's wife. The quartet's larking around starts to pall about halfway through — largely because it lacks variety — but the script saves the day by introducing more plot at the 50-minute mark and slowly morphing into a combination of horror and romance.
With the comic chorus basically driving the movie, it's a while before the actual leads make much impression. As Mak, Thai-German actor-model Mario MAURER มาริโอ้ เมาเร่อ (The Love of Siam รักแห่งสยาม (2007)) adopts a kind of spacey wimpishness during the first half that soon wears thin, so it's some credit to him and Pisanthanakun's direction that, when the film starts to shift focus at the halfway mark as Mak and Nak go to a funfair, Maurer is able to bring his character to the forefront in preparation for the love story that dominates the finale. In her first big-screen role, Thai-Belgian TV actress-model Davika "Mai" HORNE ดาวิก้า โฮร์เน, 21, doesn't have much to do except look ghostly until the final 15 minutes, when the action switches to a temple and the special-effects gloves come off. Not conventionally Thai cute, Horne makes a good enough partner for Maurer, as far as their characters go.
As well as the deliberate anachronisms in the dialogue and male hairstyles, Pee Mak also spoofs the whole horror genre, though mostly in occasional remarks rather than continuously. Likewise, the fact that all the cast (including Horne) have blackened teeth is just there, rather than made a big thing of. Production design and costuming are consistently good, with an undemonstrative realism, and widescreen photography by the versatile Naruphol CHOKANAPITAK นฤพล โชคคณาพิทักษ์ (The Letter เดอะเลตเตอร์ จดหมายรัก (2004), The Little Comedian บ้านฉัน.. ตลกไว้ก่อน(พ่อสอนไว้) (2010), SuckSeed!! ห่วยขั้นเทพ (2011)) likewise.