Let me be clear right from the beginning. The Body is not a good film. It’s big and messy and hugely over reliant on CGI, showing all signs of a young director being a bad match to the script, director Paween Purijitpanya playing all the subtleties of a script by 13 Beloved director Chookiat Sakwirakul – one of Thailand’s brightest young talents – with the grace of a construction worker wielding a jackhammer. It’s big and noisy, saddled with mediocre performances and largely deficient when it comes to character work. That said, when it hits a sequence that works it REALLY works and there are more than enough of those moments to make the film a very compelling failure, a solidly entertaining ride that brings a little something new to the hair-ghost genre.
We begin with Chon - a young man living in a bit of a daze, freshly moved to the big city where he lives with his sister. Chon seems likable enough but he is plagued with increasingly disturbing and lifelike visions of a beautiful woman being killed and dismembered, visions that are increasingly spilling over into his daily life. Who is she, what does she want, how can he free himself from her influence? Her name is Dararai, she tells him in a vision, find her. And so he tries, but Dararai is far from patient and as the mystery unravels slowly the body count piles up with a series of ghastly kills. To say much more than that risks spoiling things on the story front but let it be noted that the grisly tale is actually based upon a real-life incident that shocked Bangkok not so long ago.
In terms of story and development The Body treads a lot of familiar ground, the spirit of a done-wrong woman come back to wreak bloody vengeance is one we’ve seen repeated over and over again since the overwhelming success of Hideo Nakata’s Ringu. What makes this stand out from the pack is a clever script from Sakwirakul that messes with the expected structure of these films while injecting some underlying philosophy and tragedy along with a series of breathtaking set pieces executed by director Purijitpanya. His ghost is a truly hideous creation – no mere woman draped with long hair and dramatic lighting here – Chon’s visions truly disturbing, the kill scenes incredibly inventive and, on occasion, strangely beautiful. It is an exceptionally graphic film boasting a few shots that I’m amazed got through the Thai censors, and a film that breathes a bit of new life into what has become a very stale genre. Good? No. Entertaining? Yes. The Body’s worth a look.