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Ghost of Mae Nak
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by Doug Bentin

"Thai die"
4 stars

The legend of Mae Nak’s ghost has served as the basis for films in Thailand 20 times, and this ghost story seems to be as popular there as the one about the vanishing hitchhiker is in America.

The latest incarnation of the Thai tale comes via the 2005 film “The Ghost of Mae Nak,” in which a pair of young newlyweds finds the early days of their marriage disrupted by a vengeful spirit.

Mak (Siwat Chotchaicharin) loves Nak (Pataratida Pacharawirapong), and vice versa. They chant this refrain to each other frequently, but it doesn’t play as cutesy as it sounds like it would because they really seem to mean it. The film tends to play just a notch or two beyond the point of reality for western viewers—reactions are a little too big and some of the dialogue seems to be delivered too broadly, but this may be the norm in Thai cinema, as it is in Bollywood films.

We meet the two a week before their wedding. They’ve seen an ad in the newspaper for a house for sale and they meet with the real estate agent, Mr. Angel (Meesak Nakarat), who tells them the house is over 100 years old. The lovers like and trust Mr. Angel, but then they trust their lawyer, too. Obviously, folks in Bangkok are a little different than we are in this country.

As they inspect the house, Mak has a brief but frightening encounter with what is surely a ghost. Her appearance is preceded by the sound of a breathy sigh, like Joan Jett singing “Crimson and Clover.” Worse yet, Mak’s been having nightmares about this same vaporous woman. The waking sight of her unnerves him, but not to the point of disappointing Nak, who really wants to buy the place.

They buy it, fix it up, and move in.

After the wedding takes place, eerie visitations and frightening nightmares increase, but now Nak is experiencing them as well. She hears the name “Mae Nak” and mentions it to her grandmother. Granny tells her Mae Nak’s back story.

Around 100 years ago, a couple who loved each other very much married. Their names were Mak and Nak. Mak went away to war and was seriously wounded. Some monks nursed him back to health and he returned to his home. While he was gone, Nak (Porntip Papanai) gave birth to their child. They were happy together, but Mak couldn’t understand why his old friends avoided visiting with him at home.

I’ve probably already told you too much, so I’ll only say from this point on in the film writer/director Mark Duffield picks up the pace considerably as the ghost woman goes after everyone in the modern couple’s life who does anything to come between them. Duffield even tosses in a couple a gruesome death scenes that should bring a cold smile to the lips of even the most jaded western gorehounds.

There’s a nice scene in an operating room that is at once both surprising and silly, but it works because we’ve become used to the slightly overwrought feel of the entire film. I could do without the head-beating of having both sets of lovers bear the same names, but the film isn’t going for subtlety.

There are no overwhelming scares in the movie, but there is a building tension. If the first half of the picture intrigues with its moments of everyday life in an exotic setting, the second half ladles on a creepy disquiet that culminates in a kick ass ending you won’t see coming.

“The Ghost of Mae Nak” is a nifty ghost story that may burrow deepest under the skin of people who think that ghosts, and ghost stories, are silly. It asks, along with Poe, “Is all that we see or seem / But a dream within a dream?” and answers, “I’ll let you know when I wake up. If I wake up.”

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=14694&reviewer=405
originally posted: 10/30/06 13:30:01
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Hole in the Head Film Festival For more in the 2006 Hole in the Head Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

8/26/07 Gina Was exciting and twisted..very entertaining. 5 stars
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  DVD: 10-Oct-2006



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