When the viewer is introduced to Aaw (Suangporn Jaturaphut), she's a quiet, timid girl who lives in the Thai jungle, tending to her ailing grandmother (Pisamai Pakdeevijit). Both of them are rumored -- correctly -- to be witches by the local kids, although the particular brand of spells that Aaw's grandmother teaches her sound fairly tame, all with reasonable, everyday uses. Nonetheless, Aaw is warned that if she does wrong by the magic, it will "allow evil into her heart", and something terrible will happen.
Grandma gets sick, and when Aaw goes to the corner store, she's told her bill for rice is already 300 baht, and if she wants medicine and more food, she's going to have to get a job and cough up the money herself. The shopkeeper refers Aaw to the care of Mamasang (Manthana Wannarod) and Pookie (Opal), who are, respectively, the proprietor and one of the girls at a gogo bar in the city. On her first night as a dancer, Aaw (now named Dau) is asked out by a dickish tourist (Paul Spurrier), who ultimately pushes her the first few steps down the road to prostitution by forcing himself upon her. Meanwhile, other dancers, like May (Narisara Sairatanee), make the job even harder for Dau by mocking her as "jungle girl" and teasing her about her shy demeanor. Soon, Dau is using her magic to get her revenge on the people around her, and forgetting the rules in the process.
The first 20 or so minutes of P are uneventful, stumbling through labored setups for what will come later (at which point the movie will explain again anyway, in new flashbacks). There has to be a better, more organic way to set up the girl's magical upbringing that doesn't involve pulling the audience's leg (no pun intended) with a silly swimming scare that has no apparent bearing whatsoever on the rest of the movie, not to mention a faster way to get the movie's story in motion. The film doesn't take off until Aaw/Dau meets Pookie at the bus station, a boost of energy primarily provided by actress Opal, who takes a role that would probably be a partially-defined supporting role in an American movie and runs with it so well, she basically becomes a co-lead on charisma alone. The tantalizing romantic tension between Aaw/Dau and Pookie is one of the movie's most charming, effective angles, and much of the movie's appeal comes from the girls' relationship.
The twists and turns of the plot (which I am trying to keep vague) lead to some somewhat splattery kill scenes, although P definitely holds back on the violence in comparison to many of the American horror movies being made now. If editor/writer/director Paul Spurrier picked up the pace and gave us a litle more gore (something, to be fair, he might not have been able to afford), P might be a legitimate cult classic in the making. As it is, the movie doesn't get boring, but there is a pressing sense that the movie might derail at any minute. During the last 20 minutes, the film's goals become vague, and the audience's sense of anticipation is thwarted by not having a clear idea of what might happen. Other than the ever-present, general possibilities that everyone will die or that the world will be consumed by evil, it's not clear what the stakes are, which is a problem. The movie's actual conclusion is a bit confusing, but the re-introduction of a vanished character provides a hilarious burst of goodwill on which the film can coast.
Another movie I haven't, and probably won't be seeing is Zombie Strippers, but horror fans with a taste for the foreign who've had their interest piqued by that film and/or Lesbian Vampire Killers might want to give P a shot. The movie never reaches top speed, but even 75% speed makes for a reasonably entertaining spin, the kind of mostly-campy, reasonably funny movie with a handful of "boo!" scares that might have been made at Troma if it weren't so very Thai. I like the movie the way it is, but it's almost too bad: at least you know Troma would have given it a great title.
The Video and Audio
The film's Thai audio is offered on two separate language tracks, a 5.1 and a 2.0. Really, there's not enough going on in the surrounds of P, even during the big action sequences, for the choice of one over the other to mean much. Aside from a few standard soundtrack stings and some light score, it isn't like there'd be much going on even if this was a more aggressive mix. English subtitles are provided.
A small crop of short video extras follow. "P Behind the Scenes" (1:46) is a short reel of VHS-grade B-roll from the set, without narration or explanation, showing Spurrier directing his actors and that kind of thing. Next, "Soi Cowboy Gogo Bars" (4:57) quickly proves itself to be one of the most bizarre little DVD extras I've ever seen, a five-minute piece of a writer named Dean (who has a cameo in the movie) walking the street in Thai where the movie is set (filled with other gogo bars), chatting about the Thai nightlife and the differences between American and Thai culture. It borders on sleazy to see this old guy talking about his interactions with real-life dancers, although he insists that he prefers the Thai bars because they're less "sordid" than American exotic dancing. He's also the one to explain the title's meaning. The video quality is even rougher than that of the B-roll footage. Finally, we have a music video (5:03) for "Rawang" by Underground.
Things are rounded out by a photo gallery with 28 pictures, which can be viewed with the skip button or as a slideshow (2:19), and both the film's teaser trailer and original theatrical trailer. A trailer for Tartan Asia Extreme plays before the main menu.