Apparently it’s common practice for police in Thailand to have suspects visit the crime scene and re-enact the deed for the media. This is not likely to do their defense cases much good but it makes a curious opening scenario for The Victim, as Ting a young aspiring actress, is recruited by the Police Crimes Re-enactment Unit to play the victim in a series of mock assults, rapes, murders and suicides.
Writer and director Monthon Arayangkoon presents this set-up with some nice, darkly comic touches – Ting is apparently so good a performer that she reduces one plastic knife weilding suspect to tears.
Pretty soon though the spirits of the victims begin to get restless and pursue Ting, leaving her with a distressing entourage of ghostly hangers-on. Following the media-frenzy around the death of a beauty queen, supposedly at the hands of her husband, Ting immerses herself in this dream role. Returning to the murder scene to rehearse the woman’s death, she finds her identity merging with the dead woman as she is led to the real killer.
All this sounds potentially intriguing, so it’s a shame that despite a good performance from Pitchanart Sakakorn as Ting, Arayangkoon’s direction is one-dimensional, spelling out these plot points one by one alongside scare scenes that blunt their impact with sped-up camera moves, glossy CGI and booming sound effects. It has to be said that despite this the film does have some impressive imagery, for instance as Ting is swallowed up by a crowd of the undead in one of the many shadowy corridors featured.
However this is also a film of two halves… two awkward halves stuck together with a postmodern twist that turns all of this upside-down and then shakes it into a messy heap. I’m not sure if a twist that has been reworked for the past couple of decades (or more) really deserves much concealment here, but what follows, with its mentally fragmented actress, haunted movie shoot and decent into incoherent madness, is in some ways similar to David Lynch’s Inland Empire – but not nearly as good, though thankfully more condensed.
The Victim‘s release on DVD now is perhaps intended to attract fans of the director’s last film The House (2007), the story of a journalist snooping into the notorious and unpleasant history surrounding, well, a creepy house. The House is certainly a much more controlled and deliberate film, though would perhaps be more effective at half its length.
Also, sharing many of The Victim‘s difficulties in developing a dramatic story, you wonder if Arayangkoon should maybe trust more of the writing elsewhere.
The Victim is the earlier, messier effort, but oddly as the film goes on it gradually improves, relying more on the stillness and atmosphere created by subtle camera work and sound design.
There are still the regular intrusions of the earlier ghost scares – like a toddler banging a saucepan – so it comes as a relief when the plot really lapses into incoherence with a quite nice, enigmatic sequence where the actress, now a sleepwalker, finds herself dancing in traditional costume on a crowded street… Then there’s some kind of plastic surgery flashback and a freakish cloud of red smoke.
So, remember the plot summary about the crime re-enactments at the top of the page? All of this stuff was on the same DVD. If you like the sound of that, it’s out now.