“Soul” is yet another anthology of ghost stories. Lately, I seem to attract these things like my Horrorwatch buddy NFlames to a Fred Durst lookalike contest. Yet “Soul” has a pretty unique way of tying all the stories together: each one is based on actual folklore and comes from a different region of Thailand.
The bookend story is about a group of friends who meet to restore an old Thai home that has been recently willed to one of them. As they settle in for the evening one of the women, Manao, who has a penchant for horror stories, begins relaying tales to her friends, selecting one traditional ghost from each region of Thailand.
The first story deals with a “Paup, ” a nasty demon that loves to make paté from the livers of local villagers. When an elderly woman is blamed for its recent murders, things turn ugly in short order. The second is an erotic tale of a succubus that originates from a banana field. The third tells of a “Pong” spirit and is similar in theme to the first tale. The fourth story ties a past rape together with the present, neatly involving the friends in the house .
Although some tales are more successful than others (“Paup,” for example), the film as a whole definitely has an sense of atmosphere about it. The cinematography is gorgeous, with bright, crisp colors, particularly in the second story when a whole field of banana leaves seem to pop out from the screen. The downside to the film though is that “Soul”simply isn’t scary. Each story is quietly told, with a minimum of gore and nudity. The aforementioned second tale deals with a man being drained each night by a beautiful, female spirit, yet features zero nudity or blood: This is horror in the tradition of the old-school “The Haunting” rather than the newer MTV version.
In fact, while I was watching “Soul”, I wondered if perhaps there was some kind of censorship involved in films from Thailand; maybe they’re simply not allowed to show sex or violence. Yet, when the final tale comes, we’re suddenly treated to breastessess and impalings. Weird…but not entirely unappreciated, even if it comes a bit late and more than a bit rushed.
The bottom line is that “Soul” is a fascinating look at traditional spirits from Thailand, and this makes it worth viewing for those interested in Asian culture. Those who are looking for Asian films that chill as well as offer insight, might want to look elsewhere.
Pros: Beautifully shot, gorgeous scenery, interesting peek into Thai folklore.
Cons: Very pedestrian in terms of scares; it’s atmospheric, but not scary in the least.
Review Rating: 2.5 out of 5 creepy old women getting the tar beat outta them.
Also known as: “Lhorn,” “Haunted”
108 Minutes; Thailand
Not Rated, but equivalent to an R for horror violence, some sexual content and language.
Jakapong Bampen (Iet)
Utthakorn Choyleu (Den)
Somrak Khamsing (Tid Ken)
Juralak Krittiyarattana (Nangtamee)
Yoon Maneechote (Jan)
Nab Phetchpinthong (Village Chief)
Directed by: Arphichard Phopairoj
Viewing Format: Import DVD
(Originally published on HorrorWatch)