Vengeance

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In a happy development for cult and genre-film fans, non-English-language offerings beyond the highbrow are continuing to trickle out on Blu-ray Disc. And while you can’t buy a HD copy of My Blueberry Nights in the U.S. (and with the dollar in the toilet, who can afford to import movies these days?), you can pick up this lesser-known Thai horror-fantasy from 2006. Directed by Pleo Sirisuwan, it’s a low-budget adventure about the various creatures — human, humanoid and otherwise — lurking deep inside the jungle. It’s one of those movies where the hero’s face gets more and more jacked up and bloody as it goes along.


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As a gang of escaped convicts heads deeper into the tropical forest,

and a team of cops follows, there are dark forces at work, from very

human bloodlust — one of the criminals, Nasor (Chalat Na Songkla), has a personal score to

settle with cop Muadwut (Andy Tungkaphasert) — to the curse that has descended on a remote

village as well as the local fauna, which has turned notably ferocious.

It’s not a bad movie, though the shifts in modality are a little

disorienting. It starts off as a generic Asian cops-and-robbers

actioner, shifts gear into intriguingly grim fairy-tale territory

before spoiling the mood by spending a reel aping Anaconda, and

then climaxes in a full-on village-of-the-damned jamboree. (When one of

the characters suddenly suggested time travel, I felt like my head

would explode.)

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The raison d’etre here is clearly the

film’s fairly extensive CG work, which includes fanciful jungle

beasties that range from nasty mini-alligators to a gigantic snake that

coils around trees and crushes the unlucky between its teeth — it’s a

showcase piece for local VFX studios striving to demonstrate that they

can compete globally.

The quality of the CG ranges from not bad at all

to pretty terrible, and the irony is that the movie is at its best when

it eschews the digital beasties altogether, relying instead on

prosthetics, latex, and the good old creep factor. A scene depicting an

encounter with some enchanted “fruit tree maidens” is sexy and creepy

(like certain spiders, they eat their mates), and the make-up effects

in the film’s final section are garish and engaging if not particularly

original. (I was reminded several times of Rick Baker’s work, which is

by no means a dis.)

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Mostly, it’s an intriguing film

to watch, with cinematographer Sittipong Kongtong’s moody lighting

and foreshortened color palette lending the faces a desperate pallor

and shrouding the jungle in shadow enough to sell its mystical status

and imbue it with lyrical qualities — a scene where Wut

cuddles up with a beautiful village woman as fireflies hang in the air

around them is just about the most gorgeously and guilelessly romantic

image in my Blu-ray collection (not counting every frame of Saawariya). B-

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