The Victim, originally released in Thailand in 2006 and finally seeing a UK DVD release this month, is an Asian horror movie cut from much the same cloth as the myriad of movies to feature angry, pale, gaunt, vengeful spirits causing general murderous harm to those living folks unlucky enough to come into contact with them.
The main protagonist is Ting, a would be actress struggling to get bit-parts on TV shows who is offered the starring role in crime scene re-enactments. Excelling at this, Ting is suddenly rocketed to fame through her performances, but fame comes with a price as it would also seem that said spotlight is attracting the attention of the dead (those killed in the very crimes she is re-enacting). So far all very boiler plate stuff, angry run of the mill spirits lurk in dark hallways, with unkempt masses of hair, dark sunken eyes, blood stained clothes, and hands and limbs tensed in overly dramatic poses to signify their general distress at the world.
But then comes a twist, unexpectedly of course, as it turns out Ting’s story is in fact a movie that is being shot – a film within the film – and Ting is not Ting at all, she is actually May a successful actress playing Ting, a would be actress being haunted by spirits. The irony that comes to light in this second half is that the actors and crew of said movie involving wayward spirits are themselves being haunted by some malevolent spirits. If this all sounds a bit convoluted it’s because it is, and in all honesty if the first half was a bit dull and run-of-the-mill then the second half (post-’twist’) is even more tiresome with the characters and story lines seemingly created almost arbitrarily from nowhere. There’s a female Thai dancer whose spirit is angry at her murder seeking to right the wrongs enacted against her, some general confusion about a haunted headdress, and a list of ancillary characters that drop like flies in the wake of said enraged, homicidal, departed dancer.
On paper The Victim is a little more interesting than the standard Asian ghost story horror movie, I am always very intrigued by multiple layers of reality in films (David Lynch for instance is a master of it), but it’s a tricky premise to pull off and one that falls flat on its face here. The Victim unfortunately falls prey to some rather confused writing, and a languid pace that doesn’t flow easily from one section to the next. The spirits in the first half were more menacing and convincing than the rather tiresome Thai dancer spirit that seems to be killing off the real world characters in the latter section. The make up and effects are the strongest component of the movie, indeed it’s quite polished in many areas where this is concerned, marking a nice level of progress for Thai cinema. That being said some of the dead spirits, and indeed the bodies of the victims of said rampaging spirits, look a bit stereotypical – I won’t outright say it looks like they’ve been watching a certain death inducing video but if I say that there is definitely a bit of ‘Grudge-face’ going on you should get the idea.
The final climax comes almost from nowhere to destroy what could have potentially been a satisfying, if banal, ending. Dragging along the story does try to achieve a higher concept than just evil spirits killing people, but it doesn’t fulfil the potential of that. There are some creepy-ish moments but no genuine terror or atmospheric tension and by the end you are left wondering what is really going on while at the same time having little interest in finding out. Horror fans, particularly of the Asian horror genre, may want to catch it but overall, despite it’s attempts, The Victim achieves nothing new or of particular merit.