by Jason Coffman
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It seems the Asian horror boom that followed in the wake of the massive success of Japan’s Ringu has continued unabated ever since, with occasional imports reminding us here in the States that there are still plenty of supernatural territory left to explore. The Coffin is a 2008 horror film from Thailand that is being released directly to DVD here, and despite the appearance of the ubiquitous black-haired female ghost, it does provide a very different take on the genre.
The Coffin follows two characters on parallel storylines who both partake of a ritual in which they are closed in a coffin and prayed over as if they are dead. This ritual is supposed to rid the individual of bad karma, although that is not quite the outcome for the two main characters. Chris (Ananda Everingham) decides to try the ritual in the hopes that his girlfriend Mariko (Aki Shibuya) may awaken from her coma. Sue (Karen Mok) runs back home to Thailand on the eve of her wedding in Hong Kong, unable to tell her husband-to-be that she has advanced lung cancer.
After the ritual, Mariko wakes from her coma and Sue learns that the cancer has disappeared from her lungs. The ritual seems to have worked, but in fact it has deflected the characters’ bad karma onto their loved ones: Mariko is stalked by a ghostly female figure and Sue’s fiance Joe (Andrew Lin) suffers an even worse fate. Determined to set things right, Chris and Sue both set out to find out how they can reverse the effects of the ritual before even more people they love are hurt or killed.
The Coffin gives a cursory explanation of how its central ritual is supposed to work, but at a slim 82 minutes there is not much time for lengthy exposition. This at least partially works in the film’s favor, as the main action of the story picks up very quickly, but it also leaves many unanswered questions. The look and tone of the film are unusually calming— the coloring of the film is nearly monochrome, with most everything being a pale shade of blue, shades of gray, or black, which is often beautiful but also a little hard to watch for the length of an entire feature. The Coffin is an unusually artful horror film, which may put off viewers looking for gore and scares. Viewers looking for a different take on the Asian horror style, however, will find The Coffin worth a look.
Breaking Glass Pictures and Vicious Circle Films release The Coffin on DVD 30 August 2011.
Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He writes reviews for Film Monthly and “The Crown International Files” for Criticplanet.org as well as contributing to Fine Print Magazine (www.fineprintmag.net).
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