Ghost Game, or Laa-thaa-phii, its original title, is a great concept. Set in the world of Thai reality TV where horror meets greed and a group of 11 wannabes, the winner(s) have to spend a pre-ordained amount of time in a haunted Khmer Rouge prison and those who make it to the end will win a whole lot of Baht (5 million). On top of this fairly clever premise is the filmmakers decision to use real-life contestants from Thailand’s own version of American Idol, called Academy Fantasia.
In one review on IMDb, the statement is made that the characters are all “unappealing.” Well spotted! Of course they are, they are really contestants from the vile world of reality television. Sadly, the film does not hit all the right spots, as say the 2008 miniseries (later turned into a film by putting all the bits together) Dead Set. In Dead Set the producers took the stomach turning reality TV show “Big Brother,” fictionalized it and had zombies attack it.
Granted, not quite as original as Ghost Games but the chance to see show host Davina McCall get turned into a zombie made it a real winner, but that could just apply to this viewer. In the 2006 Thai film, the hopefuls all come from the “real” world of Thailand’s reality TV. Interestingly, the government was a more than a bit peeved about the show’s premise.
Setting it in a haunted Khmer Rouge prison where thousands of innocents were tortured and murdered, hit a little too close to home. Cambodian officials decried the film saying that the filmmakers were benefitting from the mass Genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge. Thailand offered apologies and then released the film.
The Cambodian government were not too far off point in their complaint. While they charged that the producers were turning the horrific genocidal episode into a profit making drill, they did not mention the total disregard of the victims. At one point in Ghost Game, the contestants actually denigrate the remains in the prison, insulting their death and stating that they “deserve their fate.”
This is actually rather disturbing and one cannot help but feel it was a bit unnecessary to the plot. The evil commander figure who will reek havoc over all by the end of the film was going to do so anyway, the addition of insulting innocent dead – in a scenario that is all too close to real life – was in poor taste.
Sadly, the film, despite its original concept, loses pace and becomes a bit mundane as it trundles towards its climax. In some instances, the movie induces unintentional laughter. One character is meant to be running away in terror when something halts his escape. The scene, is pretty impressive until one notices how the character was running.
My daughter pointed it out, while screaming with laughter, and, once seen, it changes the feeling of the scene forever. The chap is in the background hunched over and scurrying comically rather than running in terror. It is truly funny and every single time I’ve re-watched it, laughter is my first reaction.
Ghost Game may have, after its original concept, lost pace and its way, but over all it still entertains. Thai horror has moved up several notches since its beginnings in the Asian horror market. The Ghost of Mae Nac, released one year prior, was a complete yawn-fest of slow moving
Fast forward a few years to 2008 and the Thai horror anthology 4bia which was clever, well done and in this reviewer’s opinion, bloody brilliant. There are other films that prove Thailand is learning the horror lesson well, not least of which is the top notch film Shutter. Made in 2004, this film hits all the right notes, but from other films on offer, it appears that the lessons are hard earned and sometimes forgotten.
Ghost Game, or Laa-thaa-phii works well enough that it still manages to entertain despite the odd, and inadvertent, comical moments in the film. Certainly no worse than much of the dross that Hollywood puts out, “can anyone say Uninvited?” (A shoddy remake of a classic South Korean horror film, A Tale of Two Sisters.)
A great example of how Thai films are progressing and as said before, the concept is pretty damned original and worth a look. 3 out of 5 stars.