Bored with ghosts, Thailand has been suddenly invaded by the undead
(I THINK this is the right movie poster. my computer's translator started to smoke!)
THAI MOVIEGOERS are as crazy about zombie stories as anybody else - TV series like "The Walking Dead" and films like "World War Z" have done very well here. But when it comes to filming zombie tales of our own, we always seem to get a little frightened. Now, though, director MR Chalermchatri "Adam" Yukol is putting the finishing touches on "Phee Ha Ayothaya", which hits the screens on February 19.
A phee ha is the ghost of someone who's died in a disease epidemic. Ayothaya is just another spelling for Ayutthaya, and the story is set in the days when it was the capital of Siam, during another of its interminable wars with Burma. So, if you're familiar with "The Legend of King Naresuan" and "Bang Rajan" (and who isn't?), you already know the backdrop.
Sometime back, Adam happened to comment on Facebook that he's loved zombie movies since he was in college and he'd love to have a go at making one - despite the fact that he tends to wet his pants while watching them. He just wasn't sure how to blend such a decidedly Western idea into a Thai framework. Then someone suggested he set the movie in the Ayutthaya Period, and that was the spark.
Adam concocted a story and sent it to his Uncle Jiang, as everyone calls Somsak Techarattnaprasert, the boss at Sahamongkol Film. Somsak gave it the thumbs-up and told him to get an actor who's popular enough to ensure box-office success. That turned out to be TV soap specialist Pongsakorn Mettarikanon, who also played the lead in the period TV series "Pantai Norrasing" directed by Adam's dad, MC Chatrichalerm "Than Mui" Yukol.
So we're got a made-in-Thailand zombie film coming up. No, wait - we have TWO made-in-Thailand zombie films coming up. Later this year there'll also be "Phee Ha Rattanakosin", a more recent historical setting for the dreaded undead.
This one began as a mock trailer for third-year film students at King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Lat Krabang. It was posted on YouTube and drew a great response, so now it's been blown up into a full-length feature. Adam actually saw the trailer online and got in touch with the students to compare ideas before they carried on down their separate paths.
All the best to the students, but Adam's obviously got a head start here. He was at his father's side helping make "Naresuan" and "Panthai Norrasing" and he's also used the vast Promitr studio in Kanchanaburi, where the Ayutthaya-type set was built for "Naresuan".
In Adam's "Phee Ha", those who remain behind while most of the men go off to war are alarmed to see their fellow villagers mysteriously dying off. The riddle is solved when the bodies come back to life and start snacking on the living. Monks and magic, usually dependable against ghosts, have no sway over them. How are the poor villagers supposed to deal with this mess, especially when, you know, all the elephants are off fighting the Burmese?
Adam has told movie blogger Jediyuth that his "Phee Ha" will remind viewers of "Night of the Living Dead" and "Dawn of the Dead" by George Romero, who basically invented the genre. A big fan of Romero, Adam deliberately went for the same tongue-in-cheek approach, much as Quentin Tarantino did in his vampire homage to Romero, "From Dusk Till Dawn".