Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Review: Art of the Devil I & II

Chatrichalerm Yukol's The Legend of Suriyothai should be a solid indication that we should watch more Thai movies. It is one of the greatest epics of all time and serious movie lovers who have not seen it should do so immediately. The only other Thai film I have seen is The Wheel - a short film contained in Three Extremes II. Unfortunately, that was one Thai film I'd rather miss. I have heard about the "Art of the Devil" series for a while now but I had completely forgotten about them until a recent foraging on Netflix.com accidentally brought me to them.

Art of the Devil (2004)
Genre: Horror
Format: DVD
Director: Tanit Jitnukul

This movie has one of the strangest openings ever. It starts off with a young woman finding her family members coughing out blood and dying in their bedrooms before she is confronted by the woman responsible for their condition. Then, you get to see the flashback that focuses on the culprit and her struggles, sort of an explanation to why she is committing her current crime. Things get more hectic as the tale proceeds and additional layers of details are thrown at the audience but by the middle of the film, the narrative structure finally stabilizes. The weirdest aspect of the first half of the film is the usage of black and white film to show real time events that punctuate the flashbacks.

Grieving after a sudden and violent death.

The film centers on black magic and how powerful it can be used to destroy the intended targets. The supernatural elements found here are quite foreign to what a typical Westerner has seen before. Think a nastier version of voodoo and you are close to what it all entails. AotD is mostly a revenge drama with a creepy supernatural overtone. The villain starts off as an innocent young woman who later transforms herself from being a victim into a merciless murderer. She hires a shaman to impose some terrible deaths to the family members of a man who abused her in the past. Though the death scenes are pretty tame compared to current standard, they are oddly disturbing with the "eels" scene being the messiest of the bunch. Overall, I had a great time with this one. Even though it looks amateurish, the intriguing black magic content and strong characterizations saved this one from being forgettable.

RATING: 3 out of 5


Art of the Devil II (2005)
Genre: Horror
Format: DVD
Director: Ronin Team

This sequel has nothing to do with the original except for the fact that black magic is also used to facilliate all the crazy murders that take place. Directed by a team of 7 directors, the film definitely has a polished feel to it (though it is really hard to see why that many directors are needed to accomplish the end result). The story this time is about a group of students who decided to visit an old friend at a secluded village. Before they graduated from high school, they were involved in placing a curse on one of their teachers and that curse has come back to haunt them one by one.

That must have been very, very painful.

This one can be easily called a teenage horror flick but there are a lot of substantial adult elements in it that include crude sexual abuse and spousal violence. Some of the death scenes are very creative and bloody but there are not a lot of them. Flashbacks are used to reveal what actually happened in the past that justified the brutal killings of these so-called "innocent" teens. There is an engrossing and long build-up that leads to the eventual bloodletting but once that peak is reached, the movie slows down to a halt. It probably just needed several more violent killings but with such an unexpected, mind blowing, and satisfying ending, this one is definitely worth watching.

RATING: 3 out of 5

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