Phobia / 4bia [See Prang] (2008)

Phobia Have you got a phobia? Heights? spiders? How about if your phobia was horror movies! That would be weird with you visiting Love Horror and everything.
Actually, Phobia isn’t about ‘phobias’ as such. I’m guessing that it was a translation thing where ‘fears’ was probably more accurate. Shame huh?

But you’ll be glad to hear that unlike spiders or cramped spaces, Phobia isn’t something that should be avoided. It’s a four tale Thai extravaganza that offers a great contrast of styles and makes for a very memorable experience.
From the minds of the people that contributed to other Thai successes such as Body and Shutter comes a tense, haunting, bloody and at times, amusing anthology.
The first tale is about a young girl who is stuck in her apartment with a broken leg. Feeling lonely, she starts up conversation with a man who sends her a text message one night.
However, things get uncomfortable when she discovers that he is a lot closer to her than she thinks.
School bullies take things too far and get taught a lesson in tale two. A young boy is brutally beaten so takes steps to ensure that his oppressors are dealt with in a particularly nasty, kind of Final Destination-type way.
The third story surrounds four boys who go on a rafting trip together. After a night of telling ghost stories in their tent, they discover that the yarns that they spin aren’t actually too far from the truth, giving a few laughs on the way.
And finally, an air stewardess is asked to work on a flight for a member of royalty. But rather than being an exciting memorable experience, the stewardess is tortured  by her conscience and ends up terrified.

So, is it any good?

Well, the overall quality of the film is high. The level of acting, the look and feel, the pace and the effects (for the most part) are great.
The four tales contrast each other both in their content and the way that they are presented, which is a nice touch.

As you might expect though, the stories aren’t quite of equal greatness. Number two (the school bullies) stands out stylistically, and not necessarily in a good way. Although it’s a decent enough story, some interesting, and slightly distracting editing techniques have been employed which let it down somewhat; a heavy yellow tint, lots of shaking camera and some cgi which looks similar to that which you might see in a resident evil game on Playstation 2.

Thankfully though, the following part (about the camping trip) soon makes up for it with great ideas and a style that is more in-keeping with the rest.
Not too generic, not too predictable, and not too weird. The nice balance probably a reflection of the experienced people that came together to create this feature. If nothing else, this is a great demonstration of what the writers/directors are capable of, and each of the short stories is a tantalising teaser for other full-length features that could be on their way.
Thai horror may not be stuck in the shadows of the well established Japanese and Korean industries for much longer.

Phobia has been likened to Creepshow because of its format, and has definitely reinforced the Thai horror foundations that The Eye and Shutter have set before it.
Let’s not forget that the horror industry in this part of the world is still growing, and it’s not easy to make films that can appeal to both Eastern and Western cultures.

It’s a curious yet refreshing collection of stories that definitely deserves pride of place next to Thailands other horror successes.

Movie Rating: ★★★½☆ 

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