The next time you're about to ferociously throttle that obnoxious baby sitting behind you at a screening of the latest theatrical horror release, ask yourself this important question: Why is this child crying so uncontrollably? Is it because the mother is a worthless welfare-collecting skank who doesn't have a single clue as to how she should raise her child? Are those uncooked popcorn kernel upsetting its tiny stomach? Or maybe, just maybe, there's a vengeful supernatural entity lurking over its right shoulder who would love nothing more than to toss that noisy little sucker into the nearest meat grinder post-haste. It's something you should consider before punching both of them square in the face for spoiling an otherwise pleasant evening at the cineplex.
Thai director Patchanon Thammajira takes this annoying premise — specifically, a squalling child who just won't shut its mouth — and turns it into something a bit more sinister than your everyday case of Bratty Baby Syndrome. His creepy 2006 horror release Colic transforms every responsible parent's worst nightmare into a mildly frightening cinematic excursion that will leave you questioning why most babies cry in the first place. Unfortunately for Thammajira, his genre flick never lives up to the spine-tingling poster that's been floating around various horror-related websites over the past few months. After all, when you have an innocent baby sitting next to a bloody blender, you expect to see a deliciously disturbing toddler smoothie in the finished product.
Wonky dream sequences, I'm afraid, don't count towards course credit. Don't blame me — I don't make the rules.
After an unplanned pregnancy forces Phrae (Pimpan Chalaikupp) and Prong (VittayaWasukraipaisan) to take a drastic step forward with their slightly dysfunctional relationship, the recently-married couple pack up all their meager belongings and move in with his elderly mother on the outskirts of the city. Wedded bliss soon turns to complete agony, however, when their newborn baby boy simply won't stop crying despite the best efforts of his concerned parental units. Though the doctors claim its just an ordinary case of colic, Phrae and Prong begin to wonder if there's something else causing their offspring to wail morning, noon and night.
As suggested by Prong's mother, the young couple take their troubled child to a local monk, who believes that the baby's spirit is having a hard time adjusting to its new life. He also claims that all should be right with the world once their bouncing baby boy reaches his first birthday. Unfortunately for everyone, a bizarre series of supernatural events begin to wreak havoc on their physical and mental well-being. These hauntings also manage to shove an enormous wedge between Prong and his beautiful wife, who is slowly coming apart at the seams. Can this pair of well-intentioned parents keep their child alive past his first birthday, or will the spirits that haunt them claim his young life before its really begun?
Those expecting some sort of earth-shattering experience from Colic will most likely be severely disappointed with the end result. That's not to say that the film is horrible, mind you, but it's probably not what you're expecting. Thammajira handles the direction superbly, delivering a deliberately-paced chiller than delves deep into the darkest fears of parents all over the globe. What if you couldn't get your child to stop crying? What if doctors and holy men were clueless as to the reasons behind its unstoppable howling? Sadly, this oh-so interesting concept is mired in a stagnant swamp of horribly familiar death sequences and a very lackluster climax that leaves you wanting more than what you're given.
The entity that torments the couple's child manifests itself only as a thin wisp of smoke that can creep under doors, float through rooms, and interact with whatever objects happen to be lying around at the time. While this isn't exactly a problem in and of itself, the perturbed ghost's penchant for mischief often resembles the techniques used in the oddly successful Final Destination franchise. The hauntings/death scenes appear to have been lifted directly from the series, though I'll refrain from discussing them in detail for fear of ruining the few surprises Colic has tucked up its borrowed sleeves. Of course, if you've never seen a single frame from any of the Final Destination flicks, these familiar set pieces won't be a problem whatsoever.
Minor hiccups aside, everyone on-board does a fabulous job with the material, even when the scares threaten to overwhelm the film's unbelievable sense of dread. Pimpan Chalaikupp and Vittaya Wasukraipaisan do a fantastic job portraying an average young Thai couple attempting to find a foothold in that glorious little universe known as parenting. Their top-notch performances, combined with a smart script that never mistreats its characters, contribute greatly to Colic's overall success. Huge kudos to all involved.
While I'm hesitant to make such a bold statement in front of the entire world, I do believe that Colic is probably the smartest Asian horror flick I've watched so far this year. It certainly makes both Re-Cycle and Reincarnation appear almost amateur in comparison. As long as you don't mind the film's "slow burn" pacing and can stomach some very familiar death sequences, I think it's definitely worth investigating. Hopefully Tartan will give this flick a proper Region 1 treatment in the near future. If nothing else, Colic will surely make you think twice about why that noisy little brat sitting next to you at Olive Garden on a crisp Saturday evening won't shut his ugly little mouth.
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