Pee Mak (2013, Thailand)
My husband and daughter asked me to join them watch a video one Saturday morning. It was a horror comedy film directed by Banjong Pisanthanaku, the same director that brought us the chilling suspense Shutter.
The film is a retelling of an age-old folklore, Mae Nak Phra Kanong. The story is set in mid-19th century Siam (Thailand’s old name) during the reign of King Mongkut when Siam was in war with its neighboring kingdoms like the Kingdom of Konbaung. The film opens when Nak (Davika Hoorne) struggles with her childbirth and asks for help but no one heard her. Then it cuts to the next scene in the medical camp, where Mak (Mario Maurer) is brought in wounded from the battle. There Mak meets Ter, Puak, Shin, and Aye, who later became his best friends. Among the five, Mak is the most wounded and how he survived those wounds is already a miracle in itself.
After the war, they return to Mak’s hometown along the Phra Kanong canal. He introduces his wife, Nak, and his infant son, Dang, whom he sees for the first time. The four stay at the nearby hut across the canal that belonged to Mak’s deceased aunt. That night, Nak sings a lullaby to the baby and those who heard it are terrified.
The next day, Mak, together with his friends, goes to town to buy food and to look for jobs, but the vendors avoid him with fear, which makes Mak wonder. Until Mak’s drunk aunt, who owned a liquor shop, tells them about looking at Nak between the legs. This statement made them wonder even more.
Back home, the four discussed the possibility that Nak might be a ghost. Shin sees Mak’s house abandoned and as he is about to leave, a ball drops from the house and an extended hand picks it up. Ter agreed with Shin’s theory when he uncovers a buried corpse wearing a ruby wedding ring. They like to tell this to Mak but Mak refuses to believe them. They end up thinking that Mak might be the ghost.
Funny complications followed, exploring the possibility of a love story between a human and a ghost until the story ended up to the closing credits. Ghosts in Thai culture is much different from what we’re used to. To them, ghosts can take a human form and may be benevolent at times.
This film creates a vehicle for the director to lampoon about Thai myths and culture even mentioning familiar names in pop culture. This is a deviation from his hit Shutter but still comes up with a feel good horror comedy flick, a combination we seldom see to be this successful.