Written and Directed by: Ekachai Uekrongtham
Starring: Ananda Everingham, Florence Faivre, and Andrew Lin
Reviewed by: Brett G.
Tempt fate. Cheat death.
Whatís going to happen to us when we die? I donít like to think about it, really, and, spiritually speaking, who knows? But physically, I guess a lot of us are going to end up in a coffin. Thatís a morbid thought, but maybe not as morbid as the situation presented in The Coffin, which claims that people in Thailand gather and hold a coffin ďceremonyĒ for the living, wherein people hop into a coffin in the hopes of bringing themselves good luck. A quick Google search confirms this, so itís not just something that was made up for the movie; however, Iím pretty sure the writers/directors behind this one took some liberties with describing the weird shit that can happen after you emerge from the coffin (at least I hope so).
Chris (Anada Everingham) and Su (Karen Mok) decide to take part in this bizarre ritual on separate occasions. Neither escapes without some odd things happening; Chris has a seizure and actually dies for six minutes, while Su is cured of her terminal cancer. Both also lose people that they love and end up being haunted by the sprits of each because theyíve apparently upset the balance of the universe or something.
I guess thereís at least a dozen jokes I could make about a movie called The Coffin being a pretty lifeless affair, but thatíd be too easy. It certainly is a pretty turgid affair though, containing a dual narrative (often typical of Asian cinema) that's only connected for much of the run time because strange things are happening to each protagonist. Of course, the two do eventually come together, with their connection being sort of telegraphed about midway through. The biggest problem is that Chrisís story really just seems to exist to provide an explanation for ZoŽís; otherwise, the two really have nothing to do with each other. Even more strange is the fact that Chrisís story actually feels like the more complete, interesting story, while Suís is just sort of tacked on to pad a running time (that remains short, thankfully).
As a film of ideas, this one mostly succeeds; without revealing too much, Iíll just say the two characters stumble into a Final Destination-style death-cheating routine (complete with wicked karma) thatís also wrapped up in a typical Eastern ghost story. Sometimes the various twists and turns get confusing, but the script comes armed with plenty of expository scenes to mostly explain whatís going on. The Coffin plays out more as a drama with a bit of mystery, though; there are a few weak suspense scenes and some spooky walking corpses roaming around. Youíll spend most of the movie wandering around with the two leads as they try to figure out whatís going on.
All of this is wrapped up in a rather generic modern horror aesthetic; the cinematography is limp, and Iíve long been tired of these de-saturated, drab films. I suppose it matches the subject material here (itís a pretty somber film), but it just looks so drab. The music is similarly dull--I donít know how to explain it exactly, but youíve heard it for the past decade. You know, that weird ambient noise that sounds like someoneís sighing audibly while simultaneously scraping on pipes or something? Anyway, expect lots of that. Donít get me wrong, itís all competent, and I wouldnít call any aspect of The Coffin downright poor, but itís just so listless and uninteresting for the most part.
Another film sunk by a disconnect between concept and execution, The Coffin manages to bend some genres and put an interesting spin on the usual ghost story stuff. Thatís about all it really does, which barely makes it worth a look for the extremely curious. Breaking Glass is doing the honors of finally importing this (it was released three years ago in other territories, so keep adjusting those expectations); special features will include deleted scenes, alternate footage, cast and crew interviews, and an international trailer. Also, the soundtrack is a correct English language track--though this film was a co-production of Singapore, Thailand, South Korea, and America, English is its correct language. No matter how you say it in your native tongue, this is a one and done situation. At OTH, we call that a Rent it!
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