P (aka The Possessed) DVD Review
Written by Steve Pattee
DVD released by Palisades Tartan
Written and directed by Paul Spurrier
2005, Region 1 (NTSC), 110 minutes, Not Rated
DVD released on October 20th, 2009
Suangporn Jaturaphut as Aaw / Dau
Opal as Pookie
Aaw (Stuangporn Jaturaphut) and her grandmother are outcasts of their village in Thailand. Grandma is the local witch and Aaw, by default, is just as evil to the small minded townspeople . When grandma falls ill, Aaw heads to the village for medicine and food, only to find that her credit with the local shop has run dry. The shop owner offers Aaw a solution: go to work in Bangkok.
Armed with contact info, Aaw heads to the big city where she meets up with Pookie (Opal) who takes her to the place of Aaw's new employment…a go-go bar. Aaw — who is quickly christened "Dau" because the bar's mostly foreign clientele will have problems with her complicated country name — is utterly shy and naïve and has no business in a go-go bar, but Grams is sick, Aaw needs the money, and since meemaw has taught her the ways of the witch, she should have no problems as long as she follows three simple rules:
- Never cross under a clothes line.
- Never charge to teach others magic.
- Never eat raw meat.
Yeah, about an hour in she manages to break all three rules, an inner demon is released and all hell breaks loose.
In his commentary, director/writer Paul Spurrier explains that people seeing P for the first time were upset because they felt it wasn't a horror, and he never intended it as a horror movie. I can easily see both points of view on this. On one hand, you have witches, demons and evil magic, which are all the ingredients of a horror movie, so people seeing the movie have certain expectations. But the problem, at least for viewers expecting horror, is that the movie is not really scary. Suspenseful in parts, sure, but not scary.
Instead it's an uncomfortable movie in its portrayal of a young girl forced into a shady situation trying to get money to save the life of a loved family member. Stuangporn Jaturaphut is extremely convincing as Aaw, which is especially impressive as this is her first role. When Aaw stands up on the dance stage for the first time, you truly believe she doesn't want to be there as she holds on to the pole unmoving, as if her life depended on it. The scariest part of the movie has nothing to do with Aaw's inner demon that comes out at night, but rather when she is told by her boss to go home with one of the patrons. The scene following is easily the most unsettling of the film, as both Jaturaphut and Spurrier (who is fantastic as the slimy predator) nail the moment, and you feel filthy watching it.
That's what you walk away with after watching the film: not fear, but sadness for all involved. You even feel sorry for May (Narisara Sairatanee), the irritating lead dancer who craps on Aaw at any given opportunity. As much of a bitch May is, you know she is just a miserable person because she knows she's coming to that age where she will be too old to dance and, if she doesn't find her sugar daddy, she's doomed to a life of loneliness.
Even the growing relationship between Pookie and Aaw is touching. Pookie puts up a front of being happy-go-lucky, but underneath there is a sad and lonely girl. She takes Aaw under her wing under the guise of getting a bonus if Aaw stays at the job for a few months, but it's obvious she really cares for the newcomer, especially as the film goes on. Opal, who plays Pookie, is most impressive when she is acting flighty and carefree, but she is also believable when her character opens up to Aaw and shows that it's not really about the money — something we knew all along.
P isn't a complete study on go-go dancers — it does have blood and guts and witchery, after all. But the fictitious evils are overshadowed by the real ones. As a horror movie, P barely brings the goods, but it's well directed and well acted enough to be worth a rent.
Video and Audio:
The anamorphic presentation has a few instances of some digital compression, but is overall impressive. I was surprised to see any compression issues at all, especially considering a very foggy scene was blemish free. The colors are mostly restrained, but that seems intentional because there are some scenes (most notably during an early scene where Aaw is swimming) that the color jumps out.
The 5.1 Dolby Digital Thai soundtrack is hit and miss. P is most impressive with the use of the surrounds, but oddly the dialogue does not come just from the center speaker. It's a bit distracting when people are talking and it seems to come out of all the speakers.
Thai 2.0 and English subtitles are offered.
- Directors Audio Commentary
- Behind the Scenes
- SOI COWBOY GO-GO BARS Featurette
- Rawang Music Video
- Production Photos
- Original Theatrical Trailer
The director's commentary is the cream of the crop of the bonus features. Paul Spurrier starts talking the moment the movie starts rolling and never lets up. He doesn't waste time with back- patting the actors or giving you a blow by blow of what's going on onscreen, but rather fills every moment with relevant information. He goes from the technical (such as the cameras that were used for shooting the film) to the personal (like his experiences in Bangkok go-go bars). Spurrier has a lot of insight, especially as someone who is not native to Thailand (he is English). It's a fascinating listen and one of the best commentaries I've heard in a long while. Far too often, filmmakers use this opportunity to tell the viewer how wonderful a person was to work with, and really, no one cares. Spurrier delivered one hell of a commentary, and I appreciated P a little more after listening to it.
The Soi Cowboy Go-Go Bars featurette follows Bangkok go-go bar 'expert' Dean Barrett around as he points out the various bars and he tells you a little about them. The man knows a lot about the go-go bars. The video and audio quality is abysmal, and there isn't a lot to it.
The behind the scenes can be skipped. It's only a few minutes, with no audio and almost no point. Just some random shots during the filming.
The music video, photo set and trailer are also nothing special.
While the package is relatively average for a DVD (and a little less than what I expect from a Palisades Tartan Asia Extreme title), the commentary is so good it earns the features grade a solid star above average.