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The horror genre is a notoriously clichéd environment, and the ghost story even more so. As such, it's rare to find a fresh or interesting entry into the field. Sure, there are films that are effective, and run through the standard tropes well enough, but seldom are they a truly new take. Thai film The Coffin is just such a fresh twist, and is an enjoyable and suitably creepy film.
There is (at least according to the film) a longstanding Thai folk tradition of having a mock funeral for a living person, complete with being shut up in a coffin, to banish bad karma or personal suffering. Thousands of people flock to an enormous Buddha statue to have this ceremony performed. The story of The Coffin tells the parallel tales of two such people, Chris (Anando Everingham) and Sue (Karen Mok).
Both go through the ceremony for different reasons, Sue because she has cancer, and doesn't want to tell her fiancée Jack (Andrew Lim) or his family, and Chris because his girlfriend Mariko (Aki Shibuya) is in what seems to be an irreversible coma. They both hope for healing, and they both get it, albeit with disturbing repercussions. Sue's cancer goes into complete spontaneous remission, and Mariko wakes from the coma. But Sue is haunted by the ghost of Jack, who was killed in a car wreck, and Chris and Mariko are followed everywhere by a bloody woman in white who no one else can see.
Sue and Chris both seek to discover the truth behind their spectral tormentors, and dive deeper into the mysterious ritual they both went through. This takes up much of the film, and at times one wonders what the two have to do with each other, since their stories don't seem to intersect, and indeed they don't meet until late in the film. But the story actually fits together quite neatly and organically, and along the way the audience is treated to a steady feeling of disquiet and dread. Jump scares are barely there to non-existent, but their absence is hardly felt, not least because we are constantly expecting one. The creepy atmosphere is pervasive, and satisfyingly the hauntings end up having a logical philosophical underpinning, which still does nothing to undercut the film or our enjoyment of it.
The Coffin is a very good film. The occasional clunky line read or cheesy effect (and these are not common occurrences) are easily forgiven in the light of the overall high level of craftsmanship and care. Everingham and Mok in the lead roles are very solid and believable, and effortlessly create sympathetic characters, even while revealing their flaws. The film is as much about their personal struggles with the tragedies in their lives, and with their own responsibilities, as it is about ghosts and hauntings and terror. The Coffin very clearly veers away from the normal nihilistic outlook of much of modern horror, and this is quite refreshing. In all ways, this is an engaging film. Highly recommended.
The video is presented in1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, and looks good, apart from some occasional posterization. The image is bright and sharp, and the colors rich. There are a lot of shadowy scenes, but the darkness never swallows the action.
The audio is in Dolby digital 2 channel, and works well enough. Subtitles are not generally included, but are provided for the frequent non-English language dialogue.
Several extra features are included. They are:
Behind the Scenes
This consists of twenty minutes of behind the scenes footage, with no narration and little context. Although it is interesting to see how they accomplished some of the effects, this is mostly slow moving and dull.
This is by far the most interesting extra. Coming in at just under ten minutes, we are treated to interviews with actors Aki Shibuya, Andrew Lin and Karen Mok. They have insights on their characters, and the themes of the film.
This feature runs to twenty four minutes, and is another hard slog. Lots of deleted or extended scenes, mostly cut for time, it would seem, or because they were talky and expositional. A few of the scenes are in Thai, with no available subtitles. Not worth the time.
Just what it sounds like, eight minutes of photos from the film, both promo stills and behind the scenes shots.
The Coffin Trailer
A very effective trailer.
Breaking Glass Trailers
Trailers for Strigoi, Dawning and Asylum Seekers.
The Coffin is a unique and original film, dealing with such themes as death, loss, balance and personal responsibility. It is also a cracking good ghost story, with buckets of unease and scares. Top notch performances and tight plot keep us flowing right along through the whole film, with no glancing down at the watch. An excellent horror import.