Once in a while you’d find yourself watching a horror movie for the purpose of scaring yourself silly only to find out you’re being presented with something far different from what you expect. Dorm is one of these movies. Labelling this 2006 Thai film a “horror movie” might be a tad inaccurate, so best expect a different serving here so as to avoid disappointing yourself. The film tackles isolation both in a number of ways, the most obvious found in the plight of its main character Chatree. Forced to stay in a boarding school by his stringent father, he finds himself having difficulty coping with the sudden detachment from his family and the school’s obsession with rules.
Of course, Chatree manages to befriend a few of his schoolmates, one of whom is fellow loner Vichien. In one scene, a group of boys start telling Chatree ghost stories which they claim have actually happened within school premises. Two of these tales involve the peculiar habit of Ms. Pranee, the strict—not to mention menopausal—school administrator, of crying while looking at an open drawer in her office, the other about a boy who was found floating dead in the swimming pool. In one of the movie’s best scenes, all of the students watch a horror movie (apparently, the school is still generous enough to provide these kids with entertainment). Chatree and Vichien are one with their fellow students, mimicking whatever it is the characters in their movie do. At one point, the characters in the movie they’re watching hold their breaths to ward off a ghost, which the students also emulated. It is at that point where the students disappear in front of Vichien, leaving him all alone in the outdoor movie theater. Surprise, surprise, Vichien’s a ghost, and only Chatree can see him.
Don’t worry. It’s not a spoiler, since the majority of the movie involves Chatree and Vichien coping with the fact that one of them is better off in the afterlife. What the viewers now have is a film that involves two different people dealing with two different problems, both of which involves isolation from the world they live in. At this point the movie seems to have sloped upwards to present a storyline binding the cords of life and death. It helps that the two main actors are pretty good in the roles given to them. Charlie Trairat, for instance, gives Ton a certain likeability despite being a terribly silent character (he doesn’t speak within the first thirty minutes of the movie). Sirachuch Chienthaworn, on the other hand, is arguably the best performer here, presented with the difficult task of portraying Vichien as a lost soul whose cheery-looking manifestation hides a sorrowful persona within. Combine their performances with the derelict structure and the foreboding atmosphere of the school and we witness quite a depressing journey of two people in search of their own place in the world.
The film’s not perfect, though. There is a ridiculously noticeable continuity error viewers would surely notice from beginning to end. Even though fans would defend the film and force critics to just focus on other things aside from this error, there is still no reasonable amount of justification that can allow us to forgive. That being said, if you are the type who is obsessive-compulsive about visual details in cinema, you might have a hard time focusing on other aspects of the film thanks to this error. Otherwise, you’d probably enjoy what this film has to offer. Dorm is not for everyone. Expect a jump-out-of-your-seat horror movie and you’d walk away feeling cheated; sit back, relax and abandon expectations and you’d have no worries sympathizing with Chatree and Vichien.