It’s no secret that I am partial to Thai horror. Because the US has no counterpart to it, I envy the genuine superstition for the afterlife found in Thai culture. We have no nation spanning fears of spirits, which is precisely why American horror pales in the ghost department to that of the Asian rim. Sure, we can do our slashers and our monsters with the best of them as that’s all guttural, but we’re a spiritually incongruous nation and our cinema is lacking for it.
When it comes to Thai horror no one has more enthusiasm for the fears of the afterlife than Sopon Sukdapisit, who wrote the two biggest horror films to come out of the nation to date: SHUTTER and ALONE, the latter of which is arguably the most successful as well. COMING SOON marks the first time Sukdapisit takes on both scripting and directing duties, proving off the bat up to the task with one of the most gripping openers I’ve seen in recent memory.
A little girl awakens on a heavily soiled mattress in a dank room. Startled by the dead body laying next to her, the girl hides in the corner as the door slides open and an hysterical corpse of an old woman brandishing a knife best suited for use in a fish market enters the room, searching its shadows for the little girl all the while dragging a hobbled foot behind her. The girl can’t hide forever and soon the crazy old lady forces her to the dinner table where her “brothers and sisters” paw at bowls of rice unable to see thanks to bloody eyelids with no eyes to cover.
Meanwhile a band of parents are searching the abandoned house, eventually coming upon the old woman’s room. All is too late. The little girl has joined her “brothers and sisters” and the parents are left with a roomful of eyeless children. While the mothers sob uncontrollably the fathers string up the psychotic old woman, set to hang her burned and nearly hairless body from the rafters.
Hell of an opener. If only things stayed that way.
That opener is actually a movie characters within COMING SOON are watching. It is a rough cut of “The Revengeful Woman” and the director is screening it to see how it plays. As you’d expect at this point it doesn’t take long before those who watched the footage start to see the hanging woman outside of the silver screen. Thus the real plot of COMING SOON emerges as we follow Shane (which sounds an awful lot like Ted when spoken in its native language), a projectionist at the theater. He’s a boring character played by an uncharismatic (and not particularly talented) actor, but save for a few side folk is our proxy.
He’s stuck with the catch 22 of trying to get his life together while also trying to pay off a drug dealer he owes money to by helping pirate “The Revengeful Woman” before it releases. The only problem is that his partner in crime goes missing during the late night camcorder’ing of the print. When Shane tries to track him down the mystery (and eventual truth) of the movie’s power over people unfolds.
Sadly the movie within the movie is far more interesting to watch than what we’re given. Segments of it are shown throughout, jacking the tension every time, which is much to the detriment of COMING SOON. “The Revengeful Woman” looks like it has elaborate production design to it, solid cinematography and heartfelt acting. COMING SOON, on the other hand, looks like PHANTOM OF THE MEGAPLEX by comparison. There’s no style whatsoever to it and the sets are bland and interchangeable. Where the fake movie has a full bodied score, the real movie has the lofty, unoriginal score most other movies use for their fake portions.
The only thing COMING SOON has going for it after that opener is the hanged woman. Sopon Sukdapisit has abandoned the typical look of the white skin/black hair Yūrei and gone with an elderly gal owing parts of her aesthetic to Freddy Krueger. She’s a freaky one for sure and pops up every where in the movie, especially when the theater starts hanging up massive posters for “The Revengeful Woman” all over the place.
If Sukdapisit had maintained the same level of quality as he did with his fake movie in his real movie, there would be little to complain about. The script has several solid ideas to it that would be far less silly if the main actor were a tad more passionate. The drama misses the mark, setting up a new, though not at all unpredictable, twist on the curse plot line with jokes instead of appreciable nods. Because of this I’d wager COMING SOON will, internationally, never be as acclaimed as SHUTTER or ALONE.
Funny bits aside though, it has its share of creepy moments. I’d be withholding if I did not admit that as I write this very review in a pitch black room I have fleeting glimpses of that club footed, burned, stringy haired old lady. The triumph of the make up department isn’t enough to make up for a lopsided entry, though. The bulk of the movie is too unimpressive to take it very far beyond the bar set in its opening sequence, which is a shame, and much of its plot drivers are overly familiar at this point. If “The Revengeful Woman” had been 90 minutes instead of a mere 15, Sopon Sukdapisit would have another hit on his hands. Unfortunately that’s not the feature he made. COMING SOON is likely to settle for big success only in its native Thailand, where the cultural fascination with the afterlife helps get past the lack of life on screen.