GORE IN THE STORE
THE MAID ***
Directed by Lee Thongkham.
Starring Ploy Sornarin, Savika Chaiyadej, Theerapat Sajakul.
Horror, Thailand, 102 minutes, certificate 18.
Released in the UK on digital platforms by Sparky Pictures 11th October.
After making its bow at this years FrightFest, THE MAID arrives on digital for those of us who were unable to attend this year’s festival in person. This Thai horror is a bit of a jack of all trades, seemingly starting off as a ghost story that gradually transforms into something much bloodier as the secrets of a rich family and their maids come to light.
Beginning with the resignation of one maid, due to the spectral appearance of a terrifying, glowing red eyed monkey sporting a tuxedo and bow tie, much like young daughter Nid’s stuffed toy that she carries around with her at all times, we then meet the maid’s replacement Joy. After learning the strict rules of the household and Nid’s care, Joy also has to learn to delicately navigate herself around the aloof and distant businessman Nirach and his glamorous wife Uma. However, as soon as Joy gets to grips with her duties, she soon experiences disturbing visions of a mysterious and ghastly looking maid who seems intent on hovering around young Nid.
It soon becomes apparent that Joy has her own reasons for this particular line of work and in this particular mansion. As we learn of her secrets, we also learn of the secrets between Nirach and Uma and how they all tie into the ghoulish figure who seems to be haunting their daughter.
Director Lee Thongkham manages to trick the audience here into thinking they are getting one film then delivering something else entirely. That he does so without actually cheating the audience out of the thrills and chills is testament to his skills in manipulating this storyline. In the early stages we are treated to the usual ghostly jumps and screams but executed here with verve, often Thongkham has his scares hiding in plain sight on screen, causing the viewer to jump when they suddenly make their move and their presence known to great effect. Later he recalls Park Chan-Wook’s THE HANDMAIDEN with the large mansion’s design and illicit relationships between staff and the residents.
The film is split into three chapters, and by the time we reach the last one, there is also a slight hint of the outrageousness that Park Chan-Wook often brings to his own films. When the bloody climax is set into motion it is complimented by a playful sense of humour, particularly in one scene that recalls RESERVOIR DOGS infamous torture setpiece.
It may sound like a mishmash of disparate elements but it all gels together to entertaining and engaging effect. Its not-so-subtle critique of the class system in Thailand never really gets in the way of telling its story but it does seem like Thongkham is holding back here, never really letting himself off the leash to go somewhere truly outrageous and even more nasty that the films elements suggest he could go to with even more entertaining results. Nevertheless, it suggests even more promising results for the director in the future if he acts on what he so entertainingly hints at here.
Iain MacLeod .