Rotterdam 2024 Review: TENEMENT, A Haunted House With A Weak Foundation

The feature-length debut of Inrasothythep Neth and Sokyou Chea is a regular Asian horror.

Contributing Writer; The Netherlands
Rotterdam 2024 Review: TENEMENT, A Haunted House With A Weak Foundation

Tenement proves that a good ghost story can't get by on visuals alone. This Cambodian genre film by Inrasothythep Neth and Sokyou Chea deserves some praise because it is the rare horror effort out of that country. But when push comes to shove, this haunted house ride has very little lasting effect.

The Japanese-Cambodian mangaka Soriya tries to find inspiration for her work, after her boss tells her that her work feels inauthentic. Her boyfriend Daichi travels along with her to Cambodia, to the old apartment complex where her mother's only living relatives, her aunt and her family, reside. There she finds that the apartment complex is haunted by a demonic presence, who might not have good things for her in mind.

IFFR2024-tenement-ext1.jpgThe main problem with Tenement is that, while the jumpscares are effective and the visual style at times topnotch, the story on which the scares are founded is a very weak one. When Soriya wakes up from a nightmare for the third time, and we are left to gather if this dream has been a fake-out or has a basis in reality, yet again, the formula feels stale. The reliance on loud sudden noises also begins to grate on the nerves. As does the use of well trodden tropes like creepy kids singing nursery rhymes, or an (admittedly quite effectively shot) version of The Exorcist's infamous spiderwalk.

Once the final act starts, it also becomes increasingly clear that the directors do not necessarily know how to set-up and pay-off the things they promised in an effective way. Yes, every element that plays a part in the whirlwind of a finale has been set up before, but sometimes in a way that feels so clunky that the actions on screen start to feel a bit random and undercooked. Tenement has a lot of potential as a horror film, but the screenplay faults the directors. A decent three-act structure with rules of threes might feel overused, but it is a well-proven formula for a reason. When your foundation is structurally this weak, the whole project starts to crumble.

Another downside to Tenement is that some very good potential remains untapped. I am not saying that every horror film needs to have a political, sociological or psychological angle, for it to matter. But this film does pay lip service to some underlying themes of family, political turmoil, trauma, and searching for ones roots that feel underdeveloped. This is especially damning, as the directors could've headed the advice of the publisher at the beginning: to make your story matter, make it feel authentic. Tenement has a lot of flash and bang, but not a lot to say.

Tenement had its world première at the International Film Festival Rotterdam and will be travelling to festivals worldwide.

Screen Anarchy logo
Do you feel this content is inappropriate or infringes upon your rights? Click here to report it, or see our DMCA policy.

Around the Internet