Set in modern Bangkok, the life of groom Mak is disturbed, by successive nightmares with a ghost woman, Mae Nak, an ancient Thai legend. He meets his beloved fiancée Nak to acquire an antique brooch and an old abandoned house in Phra Khanong through an unscrupulous real estate agent Angel and they decide to buy the property. After their wedding, two small-time thieves break into the house and steal their gifts and other objects. Mak happens to see the criminals on the streets of Bangkok selling his goods. He chases the burglars and they run their van over Mak, who falls into a deep coma. The ghost Mae Nak protects the young couple against Angel and the burglars, but in return she holds the soul of Mak. This movie works because it treats Bangkok not as a glitzy tourist venue, full of pachyderms, tuk tuks, ladyboys and long-tail boats, but a functioning, ordinary, third-world city in which regular Thai people live with limited budgets and modern fears.
Ghost of Mae Nak is an interesting ghost story, which seems to be based on a Thai legend; at least the film provides this explanation in the very beginning. Into this is transported a semi-Gothic, semi J-Horror story, that derives from the old mythology. Much of the acting is just a little “over the top” which is typical in a lot of Asian horror films, but the lead actress, newcomer Pataratida Pacharawirapong was as believable, beautiful, and emotional as any actress in any horror film I’ve ever seen from any country. I think there is more to the story than is shown, but Nak gets upset at the villagers when they convince Mak that she is a ghost. Nak places a curse on the village and people start dying.
The priests exorcise the ghost and keep her spirit in a piece of bone from Nak’s forehead. Then comes 21st century Nak and Mak and they get caught up in the ghost Nak’s haunting trying to find out what ghost Nak is looking for. The acting is good, but the directing leaves some things to be desired. The non-ghost scenes however with the couple buying a house and dealing with various relatives and cultural demands are delightful and fresh to these western eyes. Also, of note, the two leads are both attractive and pleasant and give of the aura of being real people with real lives. The movies other asset is the Final Destination style death scenes the ghost uses to exact revenge or protect the couple or whatnot. The special effects are excellent and the camera isn’t to shy about the gore. The film clearly has a healthy budget and talent behind the camera. On the negative side the movie plot is right out of a Scooby Doo episode and the film is about as scary as one. Apparently the scriptwriter thought we need to have the most obvious information spelled out for us, and then repeated some 100 times in case we forgot.
With a lot of really great things about it and some minor flaws mixed in, this one wasn’t bad and actually one of the better examples of the genre. Highly recommended for those who enjoy these kinds of films or who have an interest in the film, while those who aren’t should heed caution. The fact that the ghost is actually really creepy as well is a nice plus, as the scenes of it score really high. It’s a disturbing, creepy appearance and really gets some added creepiness from these scenes, with it’s faded eyes, blacked-out mouth and teeth and an eerie dark spot on it’s head that plays an important role in the film. The last good plus is the great kills in here. This is bloodier than expected, with one being set on fire, another is crushed inside a car compactor, one of the most visually-impressive decapitations in a long-time and the film’s centerpiece, an impressive slicing with a glass panel that has to be seen to be believed.