Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Coffin and Entering a Nightmare: A Movie Review

Director/writer: Ekachai Uekrongtham.

Cast: Ananda Everingham, Florence Faivre and Andrew Lin.

*A screener of this film was provided by Gravitas Ventures.

Sensory deprivation can cause strange events to happen. When the participant is willing to be placed in a coffin, and let the lid be hammered shut, one song comes to mind, “Welcome to my Nightmare.” No, Alice Cooper isn't going to sing in the dark. Instead, what those people will hear is the chanting of psalms. The Thai ritual of purification is now set to begin.

Simply titled Coffin, this film exposes the life and times of Chris (Ananda Everingham) and Su (Karen Mok). These two individuals undergo this renewal process which begins with them learning this bizarre true-to-life event, the Non Loeng Sadorcro ceremony. And when they arrive at the Wat Prommanee temple in Nakhon Nayok, about 100km northeast of Bangkok, to participate in this ritual, that’s when the fun begins. The build-up and emotions created during this pivotal moment is the highlight of this film, and the rest feels like one huge side-narrative.

Chris has a girlfriend that is in a coma and Su has lung cancer. What they do not realize is that they are transferring their bad karma from themselves onto the life force of another. The results are more often creepy than truly scary, because it engages the audience into walking into an altered state. When reality comes crashing, that is when the cinematography starts to shine. There are two different lenses used when the two worlds come clashing.

The ritual itself was a marvel to watch, but that’s short-lived in order to get to in ensuing terror that develops.

Chris is suddenly chasing some ghosts of his past and Su finds her life upside down. She is cured from cancer, but starts seeing ghosts as well. Her husband-to-be died and he now appears to her when she least expects it. Sadly, Mok is not a scream queen. She has not earned her crown yet and more work is needed before she can truly be convincing.

At least Everingham is more enduring. His charisma carries the movie, and his tale is perhaps the more engrossing one to follow than of Su’s. As he tries to make sense of the ghosts that he’s seeing, he finds himself at a crematorium, which is apparently a real set and that only adds to the night terrors that Chris is already suffering from.

Writer/director Ekachai Uekrongtham does have a well thought out story that is faithful to the beliefs of his culture. But when there is not enough instruction to a different viewing audience in what that is, parts of it could potentially be misunderstood. To slowly bounce between the two characters is sometimes confusing and when the two finally meet, the larger story does finally make sense.

To reference the wheel of life is a perfect vehicle to explain karma, and there are some smart bits of dialogue that may be widely known to Buddhists: “death is before dying is death that will never die. Death is not death if you can see life.”

Perhaps today is not a good day to die, but someone does in The Coffin. Perhaps, renewal is not as cut up as it should be. As the world turns, so must the DVD spin; it’s set for release August 30th, and the disc will include deleted scenes, alternate footage, as well as cast and crew interviews.

Overall: 7 out of 10.

The Coffin homepage:

The Coffin's Official Website

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