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Laddaland - the Human Story at Its Heart and Excels
  By Sorradithep Supachanya / 2 May 2011
   
 

 

Taking its name from a real-life place with an infamous reputation of being haunted, writer-director Sophon Sakdapisits Laddaland centers on a middle-class Bangkok family who abandons everything and moves to a new town in search of a better life. But as their neighbors die and mysterious incidents start to happen, the family struggles to find plan B and their clouded judgments, compounded by each members flaws and unfulfilled ambitions, gradually deteriorate the dream of a perfect family they have envisioned to be.

Fans of horror films will not be disappointed, as frightening scenes are plentiful and they intensify as the story approaches climax. Many of the elements designed to scare the audience are also novel and clever, like the air conditioners human sensor (would you be scared if it detects someone else when youre alone?), the cats automatic photographing collar (do you really want to see what the cat sees?), or the sound of an operating sewing machine at nighttime (especially when the owner is dead).

Ghosts appear often but not unnecessarily. In fact, most of the time they mind their own business until humans cross their paths. Teenage daughter Nan (Suthata Udomsin) enters the haunted house in a dare. The father, Thee (Saharat Sangkapreecha) braves the ghosts in desperate search for his missing five-year-old son (Athiphit Chutiwatkajornchai). For this, Laddaland is less about the spirits world but the humans and their actions.

Careful characterization adds such rich dimensions to the human protagonists that the audience can empathize with the choices, however irrational, that they make. We understand Thees insistence on staying in the haunted neighborhood because he has worked all his life to buy the house that they are living in. We sympathize when he loses his job and degrades himself to work as a minimum-wage convenience store clerk just to carry on as the familys breadwinner. And the opening scene may be the most painful of all, when we see Thee flipping through photo albums with joy, gently decorating his daughters room, and practicing his speech welcoming his loved ones to a new chapter of their lives; little does he know that his high hope will soon slowly crumble.

 


His wife, Pahn (Piyathida Woramusik), is another tormented character the audience can relate to. Pressured by Thees stress and insecurity and her mothers constant harangue of condescending remarks about picking the wrong husband, she suppresses her misery until she loses control and over-punishes her son in one of the most heartbreaking scenes to watch. And her breakdown in the final scene is a pure emotional tour de force of anger, defeat, grief, and hope.

Both veteran TV actors Saharat Sangkapreecha and Piyathida Woramusik deserve loud applause for bringing such multilayered characters to life. Duentem Salitun, who plays Pahns mother, is incredible in her limited role, especially when most of her on screen presence is through her voice in the telephone calls with her daughter.

Clearly, Laddaland is a different sort of horror film, one without the stereotypical vengeful ghosts but that which focuses on the aspirations, decisions, and shortcomings of the human characters that happen to traverse into the realm of the spirits. Well crafted and performed, Laddalands powerful fusion of hair-raising chills with a heart wrenching portrayal of shattered dreams and collapsing marriage makes it one of the finest offerings from Thai cinema this year.

   

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