Alone

It’s tough to make a truly scary movie. To make a movie that’s simply full of scares is, in comparison, easy. Alone, Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom’s follow-up to their 2004 debut success Shutter, which screened as part of the 2007 Toronto After Dark film festival, is that second class of movie–one full of easy scares. It begins with a dream sequence and ends in a conflagration, while in between lies a series of (totally expected) surprise apparitions. Hung on this framework of predictable nightmares and ersatz peril is the story of Ploy, who years ago was separated from her conjoined twin, Pim, who did not survive the operation. Ploy’s guilt over the separation is beginning to overcome her, not least because she remains in a relationship with the sympathetic Wee, for whom she forsook her sister. Now Ploy’s mother is mute and dying, and seems to want to communicate something about Pim, whose spectre has lately begun haunting Ploy even in her waking moments. Of course, Pim’s idea of haunting seems to consist of suddenly appearing for a couple dozen frames, in close-up and ghoulish make-up, while the sound editor rides the volume knob all the way to the top. What’s worse is that the filmmakers never fail to telegraph this effect minutes in advance by tightening their framing and sending their music into a nails-on-chalkboard crescendo. Admittedly, the movie might make us jump, and that takes some craft to achieve, but when a film resorts to hitting a puppy with a car in order to elicit a response, the threshold that separates craft from manipulation has been crossed. Still, if you have a 90-minute case of the hiccups you want cured, you might appreciate just how many times Alone jumps out and says BOO! (Sean Rogers)

Dir. Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom

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