TADFF 10: PHOBIA 2 Review

Contributing Writer; Toronto, Canada (@triflic)
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TADFF 10:  PHOBIA 2 Review
[The first 4Bia anthology set was a surprise and a delight at Toronto After Dark several years ago, and they kindly bring the second (and even better) collection of Twilight Zone-y goodness to this years festival.  Be sure to attend, and do not sweat the number, it is all good for both folks familiar with the first one and novices as well]

Phobia, the Thai anthology from a few years back was a very pleasant surprise, four well produced tales of things that go bump in the night, more or less moulded on old twilight zone motifs, but with a distinctly modern Thai flavour.  So it is rather nice to see with the sequel that not only has the production values improved, but the stories are across the board solid whilst keeping the spirit of the enterprise unchanged.  In short, the collective of directors has successfully raised the bar.   This is the film that Trick 'R Treat should have been, a solid mixture of tones and organically connected stories interspersed with comedy grace notes.  

First we start with Novice, a very snazzy Owl Creek Bridge story about a boy who has done some stupid things in his youth and joins a monastery.  His own personal hell is set across the backdrop of an isolated monastery full of hungry ghosts.  The exceptional  sound design is present across the entire film but is really given a show case here as things go bump in the night and the director makes exceptional use of close-ups and strange temporal editing.  Next we have Ward, which milks about as much as you can from a man lying in a hospital ward with an injured leg.  In the bed next to him is an elderly comatose patient who receives a number of ominous and strange visitors during the day and has a habit of attacking every time at night.  Like a good horror piece (call it the Jaws effect), it invites you feel anxious in any future visits you may have in any overnight ward.  This is followed by, Backpackers; perhaps the weakest entry of the bunch, but as an unpredictable kitchen-sink entry that riffs on Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later it is certainly no slouch.  A pair of Japanese backpackers get more than they bargained for when they get picked up by a greedy truck-driver (who already has an anxious passenger) and get the eventual look at his cargo.  Salvage makes effective use of its location, a used car lot, to tell one of those vintage Edgar Allen Poe tales, taking the shysterism of the owner who buys smashed luxury sedans has them repaired them on the cheap and sells them as if they were single owner vehicles ('grandma never drove it except to get groceries') and spinning it into a little guilt and comeuppance in a rather vicious fashion.  

The piece de resistance is from Team-Shutter (Banjong Pisanthanakun & Parkpoom Wongpoom) who bring back the foursome happy campers from Phobia I and have them working as crew members on the set of Alone 2.  Rich in humour and scary to boot, they tackle horror conventions and twist endings in an effortlessly charming (even cute) way right to the breaking point.  And yet the still play very very fair.  Probably understanding that the camping segment in the first series was the show-stopper, they wisely place it at the end, and the series goes out on a bang!

[Phobia 2 screens tomorrow night, August 17 at 7 pm  as part of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival at the historic Bloor Cinema]

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More about Phobia 2

Jon PaisAugust 18, 2010 11:30 PM

Nice review, Kurt. I thought Phobia 2 was much stronger than it's predecessor, and the production values are top-notch. Here's hoping for Phobia 3!