After growing tired of reporting on the same old sensationalist stories, ambitious young journalist Shalinee (played by Intira Chaloenpura) is given the task of revisiting a brutal murder, but goes on to find out whether it is related to others that share eerie similarities. Although the cases took place years apart Shalinee suspects that because of these common aspects there are connections worth investigating, one of which being the fact that all three couples involved lived in one particular house located behind a local hospital.
Many of us are familiar with the tradition of horror films from Japan and Korea but I personally haven’t seen a noticeable cult following developing around similarly-themed titles from Thailand. Presumably The House is one that intends to change all that, and does so with an experienced director at the helm and with the casting of a well-known star of film and pop music in a tale that has more than its fair share of shock and gore.
The background to the film reputedly drew inspiration from certain real-life murder cases, but it goes on to create its own mythology around them and uses this to drive its own story. Recurring themes such as domestic issues and jealousy all revolve around the creepy-looking house, the history of which causes Shalinee to put herself into harm’s way to find out the truth. As she begins to unravel the threads between these cases, her own personal life and relationships also begin to fall apart.
Chaloenpura was probably cast as Shalinee because of her credentials as an actress in similar roles (her turn in Nang Nak for instance) but perhaps also to add a bit of movie star sparkle, which in fairness she does reasonably well. The rest of the cast don’t really show any stand-out performances so it’s business as usual for a film of this type, with the exception of one of the accused doctors who offers to divulge details about his alleged crime in true Silence of the Lambs style from his jail cell. It’s honestly hard to tell whether he’s truly a cold-blooded killer or simply an unfortunate pawn in some supernatural game that is outside of his control, so this aspect of the story is all the more effective for that.
Because the plot is concerned with incidents that took place in different points in time the film employs a lot of non-linear storytelling, so Arayangkoon’s direction comes to the fore in keeping all of the subplots coherent and flowing smoothly. Because of this it does well as a murder-mystery, complete with a pretty satisfying twist towards the end, but as a sharply-scripted supernatural chiller it’s less convincing.
Part of the problem is that there are so many other Asian horror titles out there: The House is up against a lot of stiff competition and judging by the way that the horror elements are handled, I suspect that the writers of this film were all too aware of that fact. It tries hard - too hard in places - but never manages to do anything that hasn’t been done before. If this is one of the first movies of this type that you’ve seen there are plenty of shocking moments that will have you on the edge of your seat, but for long-standing fans it holds fewer surprises.
It’s a little frustrating really, because The House gets a few important details right: the direction whips up a respectable level of mystery, it has an attractive and convincing lead to keep the viewer’s attention and it clearly knows what other boxes need to be ticked to stand up to similar offerings from elsewhere. That box-ticking is however what lets it down, and as a result it misses the opportunities to build a more sophisticated atmosphere of creepiness and to stand out from its rivals.