Phobia DVD Review
Review Written by Daniel Benson
DVD Released by Icon Home Entertainment
Written and directed by:
Yongyoot Thongkongtoon (segment "Happiness")
Paween Purikitpanya (segment "Tit for Tat")
Banjong Pisanthanakun (segment "In the Middle")
Parkpoom Wongpoom (segment "Last Fright")
2008, Region 2 (PAL), 111 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
DVD released on May 10th, 2010
Do ghost movies scare you? I thought I was completely immune to the effects of Asian ghost stories having seen the same J-Horror formula trotted out time and again. After the initial creepiness of a white-faced child or a long-haired girl I thought there’s not a great deal more that can be done to scare or unsettle the viewer.
Then I watched Phobia.
Created by four of Thailand’s emerging directorial talents, this anthology presents four drastically different, yet equally effective ghostly tales.
The first segment, Happiness, is directed by Yongyoot Thongkongtoon (Best Of Times; Metrosexual; Iron Ladies) and tells the story of a young girl confined to her apartment by a broken leg from a car accident. Her internet is unreliable, so the only contact she has with the outside world is her mobile phone. When she starts to get text messages from an unknown number she is, at first, concerned and then flattered as the stranger seems to be a boy who wants to get to know her.
Running at about 25 minutes, this segment is tense and terrifying and the most incredible aspect is that there isn’t a single word of dialogue in its duration. The entire story is told only by text messages and a brief period on the internet, yet this skilfully directed story manages to grab you by the shoulders and keep you transfixed until the last second.
Tit for Tat follows and we find a schoolboy ruthlessly tormented by a gang of bullies. Pushed to his limits, he unleashes a curse on one of the female members of the gang. From that point on, whoever she looks at will die.
Paween Purikitpanya (Body) takes the reins in this chapter and his frenetic style is polar opposite to the previous story. The vengeful curse dished out by the bullied boy creates an almost non-stop series of bloody deaths, very much in the style of the Final Destination franchise. As if having everyone you look at die wasn’t punishment enough for the last remaining gang member, she ends up tormented by malevolent spirits, forcing her into a final bloody act to end this story.
A little light relief comes in Banjong Pisanthanakun’s In the Middle as four friends run into trouble on a camping trip. They goof about, tell ghost stories, make fun of each other and spoil the endings of their favourite movies for those who haven’t seen them. Pisanthanakun’s own Shutter even suffers the same fate, so if you haven’t seen that one yet, you may want to put this on hold to avoid the spoiler.
The smirks come as often as the scares during this segment. When one of the group goes missing after their raft capsizes, the rest hope for his safe return. As they settle into their tent for the night the hope turns to desperation as he had promised to return and haunt whoever slept in the middle of their tent. Their wishes are granted when the missing friend returns after sun-down, but he doesn’t seem to be the same as before.
It’s a real credit to the director that he manages to get a thick vein of humour running through the story, and still maintains a creepy and disturbing atmosphere with a clever twist ending, not unlike one of the movies referenced by the group.
Phobia closes with Last Fright, directed by Pisanthanakun’s Shutter co-director Parkpoom Wongpoom. This story concerns a flight attendant who must accompany the body of a deceased princess on its final flight back to her home. It just so happens that the flight attendant was having an affair with the dead woman’s husband, and she was the reason the princess ended up deceased after feeding her food she was allergic to.
A deserted flight, a dead princess and the woman who wrecked her life and caused her death. You can see where this is going. It’s actually the weakest of the stories on offer, just because it is so easy to work out what’s going to happen. However, it’s still extremely atmospheric and packs some claustrophobic scares in the confines of the plane.
It’s a movie that has something for everyone. Happiness is the most technically brilliant chapter as it achieves so much by doing so little. Even though I rate Last Fright as the weakest episode it brings up the rear in a very strong group of short stories.
I’ve always had a soft spot for anthology movies and this one is no different. Four extremely well made, scary tales wrapped up with some Asian ghostly goings-on make this one not to miss.
Video and Audio:
Phobia's 16:9 picture is clear and completely solid. No signs of any distortion during the extremely varied scenes throughout the four stories. The 5.1 Thai DTS is, as seems to be the case with Asian movies, incredible. There is so much power, but no distortion, in the audio that my amp was at its lowest volume setting for some time during the viewing of the film. The disc also offers 5.1 and 2.0 Dolby Digital tracks.
Subtitles were more than adequate and well translated. Some publicity sources refer to the final segment as Last Flight although the subtitles clearly state Last Fright.
The only special features on offer are a trailer and some interviews with cast and crew. Not a great deal on offer given the fantastic presentation of the rest of the disc.
Click cover to purchase.