P – DVD Review

P_DVD

The video store shelves are filled with DVDs that have blurbs from semi-prominent publications touting their masterpiece-ness or their shocking originality, etc. Generally if you’ve heard of neither the magazine nor the movie, that’s a bad sign. But even if the magazine is known, it may not help. Take for instance this blurb from Fangoria: “P is chillingly excellent…one of the best Asian horror films to reach these shores in many years.”

This is not true, however. Instead, P is a mess of a movie. It starts out with Aaw (Suangporn Jaturaphut) as a young girl, ostracized at school for the belief that her grandmother is a witch. Turns out the kids aren’t all wrong, as Grandma soon teaches Aaw some ancient magic secrets one day after the girl is menaced by a P in the local swimming hole (‘P’ meaning ‘ghost’ in Thai). Years later, Aaw is still pretty much friendless and now Grandma is sick. A friendly local suggests the girl head to Bangkok to earn money for Grandma’s medicine. Though nothing sounds good about this idea, Aaw goes for it.

Once in Bangkok, she discovers that the work she’ll be doing is dancing for foreigners and occasionally going home with them. She’s horrified by this turn of events and soon turns to her Grandmother’s magic tricks to get back at those who harm her. But Grandma also warned the girl not to do certain things – don’t pass under a clothesline, don’t eat raw meat – things that don’t much fit together and have no discernible affect on the girl outside of her eventually becoming a demon.

Once a demon, Aaw starts maiming and killing. Sometimes with spells that cause snakes to latch onto customer’s privates and sometimes with the girl herself baring fangs and draining her prey of their blood. The action is seldom presented in any realistic way – camera tricks like Aaw riding on a dolly to appear as if she is floating toward her victims just don’t come off – and undercuts any tension the film might’ve had.

It’s an ambitious production to be sure, but it seems that maybe the makers bit off more than they could chew. It’s tough, for instance, to make a horror movie – a genre comfortable with exploitation – that criticizes the prostitution of minors in Bangkok and have it come off as something other than titillation. The crew seems comprised mostly of men and writer/director/editor Paul Spurrier actually cameos as Aaw’s first john. The creep factor is high. And while it’s hard to believe anyone would set out to make a movie that would endorse this way of life, the message here gets confused.

Not helping matters any is the transfer, the most blocky, blurry mess you’re likely to encounter in mass-marketed DVDs. Even the fade-to-blacks aren’t one flat color. A truly terrible presentation.

The film is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. The transfer is consistently muddy and does nothing to bolster the shortcomings of the film. The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1 in Thai with English subtitles. The sound is adequate for this kind of production.

Director’s Audio Commentary – Spurrier comes across clear and intelligent in his commentary. If you’re interested in going more in depth with P, this is your chance.

Behind the Scenes – A short, wordless stringout of behind-the-scenes footage. (1:46)

SOI COWBOY GO-GO BARS Featurette – One of the cast (and possibly of the crew? He’s not identified) walks through the streets of Bangkok, talking about Go-Go bars. (4:57)

Rawang Music Video – The longest of the extra features, this music video – made up mostly of shots from the film dissolving in and out – is maybe the best part of the package. (5:03)

Production Photos – Production and behind-the-scenes stills. (2:20)

Original Theatrical Trailer – (1:45)

Original Theatrical Teaser – (1:06)

P is not a scary movie and though its ambitions are large, they don’t make up for this tame film.


Tartan Video presents P. Directed by: Paul Spurrier. Starring: Suangporn Jaturaphut, Opal. Running time: 110min. Rating: Not Rated. Released on DVD: October 20, 2009. Available at Amazon.com

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