Film Review: The Coffin (2008)

SYNOPSIS:

Inspired by a true Thai ritual of lying in coffins to get rid of bad luck and prolong life, The Coffin is a supernatural thriller about a young man and a young woman who decide to go through the ritual in Thailand.

REVIEW:

The Examination Results: Balance of life and death, interrupted. 

Director: Ekachai Uekrongtham
Cast: Karen Mok, Ananda Everingham, Andrew Lin 

Written and directed by award-winning Thai director Ekachai Uekrong­tham, The Coffin features a pan-Asian cast. It stars Hong Kong actress Karen Mok (Shaolin Soccer, So Close), Thai actor Ananda Everingham (Shutter), Taiwanese actor Andrew Lin (Infernal Affairs II), Thai actress Napakpapha Nakpasitte (Art of the Devil 2 & 3), and Japanese newcomer Aki Shibuya. 

Some of you may know Ekachai’s achieved phenomenal success with his debut feature Beautiful Boxer (2005). Based on the true story of Thailand’s famed transgendered kickboxer. The film garnered 15 international awards, and has been released in more than 30 countries and invited to over 100 film festivals worldwide. 

The Coffin surrounds the beauty of life and death, karma, and coming face to face with living and dying. It was shot in six provinces across Thailand on actual locations including a 100-year-old temple, real cemeteries, inside active crematorium chambers, and an ancient meditation cave. Different from most Thai horror movies, The Coffin is a unique story as it revolves around a traditional Thai ritual called Non Loeng Sadorcro, which literally translates as “lie in a coffin, remove bad luck”.

If you are expecting a lot of ghostly scenes and horror from this movie, be prepared to be disappointed. It’s more of a tear jerker, but considering the horror elements, it is best slotted as a horror movie. However, I give mucho bonus points for the superb filming of this movie which took place across many different locations throughout Thailand, solid acting, and the manner in which the director cleverly attacks the audience with moments of shock when you least expect it. Further, there are scenes throughout the movie that are melancholic and spooky. The music score, however, seems a bit repetitive. 

The opening narrative is beautifully done which gives the audience a view of the symmetrical arrangements of hundreds of coffins forming concentric circles around a giant sitting Buddha, thus expect the opening to be a little slowly paced, as most Asian horror films are, allowing the viewer to make sense of the basis of the movie without the help of dialogues.

In The Coffin, we find two main characters, Chris (Ananda Everingham) and Sue (Karen Mok) who have no relation with each another and are both trying to turn the wheels of karma for their own good. Chris is an architect who is extremely claustrophobic, but with hope to lengthen his girlfriend Mariko’s (Aki Shibuya) life, decides to overcome his fear by being in the coffin. Sue, a nutritionist, takes care of her health religiously. However, only few weeks before marrying her fiancé Jack (Andrew Lin), Sue finds out that she’s in the final stage of lung cancer. Sue then runs away to Thailand and discovers the coffin ceremony through glorious praises of miracles, and decides to participate in order to save her own life. Chris and Sue are confronted by a series of paranormal and terrifying incidents even before the ritual is over. 

During the ritual, Chris appears to be trapped in the coffin, a cut scene appears and he is suddenly being resuscitated in an emergency room. It is there he discovers that he became ill during the ceremony. Sue becomes involved in a shocking automobile accident that should have killed her. 

However, shortly after the ritual, Chris and Sue experience what appear to be miracles in their respective lives. But soon, they find themselves confronted by a series of bizarre and terrifying incidents. Although the ritual seems to work, Sue’s fiancé Jack dies mysteriously. When Sue begins seeing the ghost of Jack, she begins investigating the real source of the power behind the coffin ritual.

With the help of a professor specializing in paranormal cases associated with the ritual, they set out to exorcise the ghosts that haunt them, and attempt to reverse the wheel of karma. Note, if you’re expecting a lot of side-by-side teamwork from these two, don’t.

The Coffin can be a bit complex, but not near as complex as some Asian horror movies tend to be. The Coffin was much easier to follow than most I’ve seen. As Sue’s story is playing out, we are constantly cut to Chris’ story, who also begins seeing ghostly visions after taking part in the ritual. You would assume that the characters would intersect, and they eventually do. But the reason for their meeting is far-fetched, and comes off as an ineffectual attempt to try and introduce a twist into the plot, when there really didn’t need to be one in the first place.

There’s nothing necessarily bad about The Coffin. Fans of watered down “horror” will probably be entertained. However, most others will probably find a modest amount of somewhat enjoyable entertainment. For the most part, this movie makes you think about death and dying of your loved ones and that you’re not going to live forever. Well, most of you anyway.

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