Interesting enough to sit through.
* * *
It is important to understand that I watched the streaming version of this on Netflix Instant and that plays a large part in my review. For some bizarre reason, even though this is a Thai movie, Netflix’s version is dubbed in Cantonese. You can imagine how awful it can be to have to sit through horrible dubbing and even worse subtitles. Half of the time there was either talking without subs or subs with complete silence.
Ping (Kett Thantup) has joined Master Duong’s band. And by band I don’t mean a rock and roll gig, but a Thai drum band that plays really cool folk music with traditional instruments. Word around the block is that Master Duong owns a special drum that assures his band always does well. Of course, if you break your vow and try to leave the band you pay the ultimate price. Of course rival band master Muan wants that drum because he’s not satisfied with being the richest leader in town – he also wants to be the absolute best. A few love story montages and some really awesome music later and somehow the movie is good enough to finish no matter how irritating it is to have to hear it in Cantonese.
What really saves this movie is the original story. (Well, original because I’ve never seen or heard of something like this. Maybe in Thailand they’re all like “Oh please, you’ve seen one haunted drum and you’ve seen them all.”) I have to admit I was wondering how the hell that could work. I mean, sure there’s a curse and all but how do you incorporate a drum? Well, when you see CG drums pounding the crap out of someone you can’t help but cheer. (Despite said CG.) It isn’t really made clear if this is some sort of period piece or if it is supposed to be a more modern story because it is all contained in a tiny village. I chose to take it as more of a period piece and it works really well. We know all along who is haunting/protecting the sacred Perng Mang drum, we just need to figure out why. (It’s worth finding out!)
The drum music, the instruments themselves and the amazing costumes of the dancing girls are incredible. Seeing them perform takes you away for a little bit, long enough to get a renewed sense of excitement to finish the movie. As a person with practically no rhythm it is mesmerizing to see those hands fly all over the drums like it was some sort of special effect. Thailand is such a beautiful country that even the poor village looks both depressing and pretty.
The effects were subpar CG, but I don’t know how much I can blame them. The kills were unique and I don’t know that it would have turned out better with practical effects. I especially love the dancer’s death by broken bones. It was gory enough to satisfy, and while it seems like there wasn’t a lot, it still works rather well. It is just a little disappointing after seeing the Art of the Devil series because you know they can do so much better.
Besides the effects, it also had a few spots where it lagged a bit. Some scenes were just dragged out far too long for its own good. The little love story side quest while necessary (I guess) received more focus than it should have. Complete with swelling orchestral music to inflate the importance and romance of the moment. And I guess that is the problem, it is a disjointed film that has some incredible moments but the little detours to get there can start to wear on you after a bit. Would I have enjoyed it better with the original soundtrack? I’m not sure, but I really hate not seeing films the way they were intended to be seen. So may I suggest caution. It is a really cool movie if you’re interested in a different culture with some decent gore, but you’ll most likely want to throw things at the screen or just put it on mute to get the crappy dubbing out of your head.Have You Read...?