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Dorm

  Anchalee Chaiworaporn
   
 

Dorm opens a new page of horror that cant be accounted for in any history of the genre. The film offers a thin layer of familiar spooks, but rather than be filled with chilly atmosphere it is, instead, it is a delicate, heartwarming moment in time about the friendship of two boys in different worlds. A grade-7 boy, Chatree (Charlie Trairat), is sent to a boarding school by his father who wants to train him with more discipline, and for him to spend less time in front of the television. Sadly and angrily, Chatree accuses his father of wanting to get rid of him because he knows his fathers secret adultery. Like many boys at boarding school, Chatree begins his new life with ghost tales, being bullied by friends, and the thrilling sound of dogs howling. In his encounter with loneliness, Chatree meets a new friend, Vichien, without noticing that Vichien never talks to others except him. Until one night, he abruptly finds out Vichiens true idenity. The two boys still continue to develop their friendship. Chatree notices that every evening Vichien keeps going back, jumping down and struggling helplessly into the deserted, empty swimming pool. Who is Vichien and what happens to him? Something that only friendship can heal.

Director Songyos Sugmakanan crafted his second work with meticulous care in all aspects heartbreaking plots, nice cinematography and excellent performances. The storyline is well interconnected between the relationship of two friends in different worlds, a father and son conflict, and a devoted teacher who carries her guilt. Nice low-key lighting is transcended throughout the film to explore the lives of all characters with their own memory and past. Most important is the excellent performance of lead actor and actress. From his role as a kid with his childhood first love in My Girl, Charlie Trairat has developed himself into a young boy who can take on any dramatic role. In the meantime, veteran actress Jintara Sukaphatana still proves her acting ability as an eccentric teacher who punishes herself for causing her students death. (Remember her, a young Vietnamese girl on whom Robin Williams has a crush in Good Morning Vietnam).

Dorm is a heartwarming horror that brings to all of us those memories we once had in childhood. It is a nice ride to our own forgotten moment in time.

   

Sorradithep Supachanya

 

 

   
 

WARNING: This review contains a crucial spoiler for those who have never seen M. Night Shyamalans The Sixth Sense. ;-)

Thailand makes too many ghost movies. Already four out of seven Thai films released so far this year prominently feature spirits and other supernatural creatures. Fortunately, Dorm transcends being an ordinary film about frightening dead people. It tells a beautiful story about friendship and redemption, about growing up and growing out of the past by forgiving others and yourself. In short, Dorm is an outstanding coming-of-age tale for adults as well as for children.

The film opens with 12-year-old Chatree (Chalee Trairat) being abruptly sent to a boarding school against his wish. There, he makes no new friends, the class bully terrifies him with ghost tales, and his teacher (Jintara Sukapat in her quietly powerful performance) exhibits eccentric behaviors as she blames herself for a students death. Eventually, he befriends classmate Wichien (newcomer Sirarath Jianthavorn) and things look bright until one day Chatree discovers that his best pal has been dead for at least a decade.

Especially for those who have seen The Six Sense, the film provides easy clues for the audience to guess that Wichien is a ghost. Unlike The Six Sense, however, hiding this secret is not the top priority for Dorm. This revelation comes at the films half way point and what happens afterward shifts the film from the horror genre to a family-friendly one, as it pushes the camaraderie of the two boys to its forefront and the ghost elements secondary.

Chalee delivers a solid performance expressing resentment, loneliness, fright, and, most importantly, maturity at the end when he finally learns the true meaning of friendship and forgiveness. Both he and Sirarath lighten up the film with their wonderful onscreen chemistry. We laugh when they tease each other and we empathize when they seek shelter from loneliness. Other young actors are also delightful to watch as director Songyos Sugmakanan once again wields his magic in working with children.

High expectations amount for Songyos, the second director of the 2003 blockbuster My Girl to go solo (following Komgrit Trivimols 2005 Dear Dakanda), and here he does not disappoint. He moves the storyline forward by gradually peeling the plot layer by layer, which effectively makes the film quite suspenseful. Unfortunately, the adult viewers may be let down by the simplicity of and modest answers to the films mysteries and unconvincing explanation to Wichiens death reenactment.

The studio GTH has been marketing Dorm as a horror but I wonder if this is the wisest decision because horror movie fans would be disappointed and the family film audience would not see the movie in the first place. If Dorm means to be a coming-of-age movie all along, then why include a ghost character? Is the director establishing a new kind of Thai ghost movie (the one with a heart)? Is he strengthening his theme of friendship (accepting friends as they are)? Or, is he making a point that sometimes we treat other people like ghosts (we dont care about them as if they are invisible)?

These questions are for your discussion in your own time. Meanwhile, take your family to see Dorm. Its humorous. Its enjoyable. Its beautiful.

 

 

 

 

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