Ghost of Mae Nak DVD Review
Written by Rosie Fletcher
Film released by Tartan UK
Written and Directed by Mark Duffield
2005, R2, 101 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on January 29th, 2007
Siwat Chotchaicharin as Mak
Pataratida Pacharawirapong as Nak
Pornthip Papanai as Ghost of Mae Nak
Meesak Nakkarat as Mr Angel
Attractive young couple Mak and Nak are soon to be moving into a new house together. They’re happy and in love and things seem to be going well for them, except for the fact that Mak is having reoccurring dreams about a ghostly female figure with black eyes and a hole in her forehead. At first the ghost seems to be looking after Mak and Nak, doling out her own gory kind of justice in their favour, but Mak and Nak soon find out that she expects something in return.
Based on a popular Thai ghost story, shot in Thailand in the Thai language, Ghost of Mae Nak is especially notable because it’s directed by an Englishman — Mark Duffield. It’s Duffield’s first feature as director — his background is in cinematography and you can see this coming through in Mae Nak— it looks good and there’s a lot of careful attention to detail.
Duffield is a self-confessed horror fan, and Mae Nak delivers some excellent scares and has some fabulous gore scenes in the style of The Omen and the Final Destination movies. The eye for detail comes through in these scenes in particular, and you get a real sense of the director’s passion for the thrill and the spectacle of good horror.
The fact that a lot of people are rather tired of vengeful Asian female ghosts doesn’t do Mae Nak any favours and, in a way, this is a shame since this ghost looks good and has the potential to be pretty creepy for those who haven’t grown immune to the iconography. It seems a little bit unfair to criticise Mae Nak for this, particularly because it’s based on an old Thai story about a vengeful female ghost (and Thai women do tend to have black hair), but for me, at least, some of the impact was diminished because of this saturation.
Mae Nak’s biggest let down is its central relationship. I found the leads insipid and dull and I felt like the director was trying to convince the audience they were in love simply by including lots of scenes of them saying, “Mak loves Nak,” and, “Nak loves Mak.” I don’t want to be told that they’re in love, I want to be shown. As well as this, neither character is any fun at all — if I were stuck in a lift with these people I’d be likely to gnaw my own arm off in irritation. Nak’s friend Noi, in contrast, is far more human and her hints of crassness and humanity instantly made me care about her more than either of the leads. That’s the problem — I didn’t much care whether Mak lived, or died, or whether he was separated from Nak, and generally speaking I was rooting for the ghost (whose backstory is far more moving).
Ghost of Mae Nak is a stylish and good looking horror, with a fine sense of pace and some excellent set pieces; it gives good horror, but it’s not a compelling — or a convincing — love story and, ultimately, it feels a little bit throwaway.
Video and Audio:
Anamorphic 1.85:1. This was strictly speaking a test DVD but the picture looks clean and crisp and good quality.
Has options of Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and DTS Digital surround 5.1. No problem with the sound as far as I was concerned (although the fact that I don’t speak Thai means I can’t vouch for the clarity of all of the speech.) Some of the soundtrack at the start of Ghost of Mae Nak is rather intrusive with a 1980s feel to it, and this you can hear without any problems — you can judge for yourself if this is a good thing or a bad thing.
First, there’s a sort of filming diary showing various shots of takes and characters. While fans will enjoy seeing the back stage stuff, especially how some of the effects were done, there’s no proper narration over this, which makes it feel like a collection of random images in no discernible order. It’s also over an hour long, which drags.
Next are the two outtakes, which are no doubt hilarious if you speak Thai.
Footage of the premiere was my favourite of the extras - it's quite short but you can see that this film was a pretty big deal in Bangkok when it was released.
Also, there’s a commentary from Mark Duffield which is definitely worth a listen if you liked the film, and is still quite interesting even if you weren’t sold.