AKA FUN KAO [Thailand]
AVAILABLE ON DVD 8th October
RUNNING TIME:86 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Ken is a handsome young actor who has become a superstar and the dream date of every girl, something which he callously takes advantage of. While he can attract any woman he wants, every detail of his life seems to end up in gossip columns and tabloid magazines. When he dumps his two previous girlfriends, one of whom he got pregnant, they are exposed by the media. He begins another relationship with his latest co-star Ploy. When news leaks that they will marry, the media goes into a frenzy and the couple’s dream life turns into a nightmare. It seems that someone is stalking them, day and night. Is it an ex-girlfriend, an obsessed fan or vengeful paparazzi?….
Every now and again a cautionary tale for men who sleep around and use women simply as notches on their bedpost comes along. My Ex is the latest in the line of films probably begun by Play Misty For Me [though the most popular of which is Fatal Attraction] where the rejected or dumped woman turns out to be a nutcase who just won’t leave the man alone and may even have murder on her hands. The idea has been called sexist by some but to me it just cleverly plays on male fears [though women of course can enjoy it in a different way!]. My Ex seemed to be just a supernatural variation on the basic story [even if it sounds like a rom-com or teen movie!] but actually turned out to be a full-blown horror movie which will instantly remind some viewers of films like Shutter and What Lies Beneath. It’s a reasonably good effort, but struggles to make an overall feeling of déjà vu go away for some of the time.
The titles adroitly show us the frantic life of Ken in quick black and white shots. He seems to have the world in the palm of his hand. He is young, handsome, rich, successful and can seemingly have any woman he wants, something that he takes advantage of constantly. Sadly there is also constant media scrutiny, and there already a sense that Ken wants to get away from all this. We see him dumping two girlfriends, giving the typical callous male response to being told by one of them that she is pregnant; “are you sure it’s mine?” We don’t really like this guy very much, and this is interesting when weird things start to happen, because we are actually getting some enjoyment out of watching him getting scared. He seems to be paying for his behaviour, unlike Ploy, his latest paramour, who not only doesn’t deserve to get a rat like him but also doesn’t deserve to be haunted by one of Ken’s exes.
My Ex gets into the spooky stuff almost immediately with little build up and for a while is quite scary indeed. Ghosts suddenly appearing in mirrors or in rooms or in photographs are old-hat in the horror genre and there isn’t much that is new here but some of it is well handled enough that I personally jumped a few times and felt shivers pleasantly working their way done my spine. A hand in a bath did it for me [sometimes it’s the simple things that work best] and there’s one tremendously frightening bit where Ploy is in the foreground on the right hand side of the frame and on the left hand side we see the ghost, first of all in the distance, then getting rapidly closer and closer without actually seeming to walking. The exceedingly creepy atmosphere is enhanced by the camera constantly prowling behind Ken and Ploy and subtle music design consisting of mostly just ambient droning and whispering [dare I bring up the hallowed name of Suspiria here?], though director Piyapan Choopetch is too fond of the lazy trend for using a loud audio “BANG” during a scare. You may have seen it all before, but I reckon you will probably too gripped to care much about it, though I began to wonder how the film could sustain this intensity, and my suspicions were confirmed.
I think that many horror fans would agree that films which pile on the scares right from the word go have a tendency to run out of steam; most of the true classics take their time in building up to the thrills and chills. Sadly My Ex loses its edge around two fifths of the way through. The spook is shown too much, the picture becomes overly repetitious and gives the impression that it has no more tricks up its sleeve so it just repeats old ones. Ghosts showing up in photographs always give me the shudders, but here there are so many scenes of people looking at spectral snaps that the terror ebbs away. The film is still reasonably involving and interesting though. The plot eventually starts to resolve itself with one surprise [well to me anyway; there may be armchair sleuths which will have worked it out already] and some clever use of flashbacks which sometimes fill in missing parts of scenes we have already seen, and then just when you think things are finishing, we are given seemingly two or even three endings. The final scenes have that spiritual aspect common in the endings of many Asian horror/fantasy pictures and I was a little moved, but I was also a little confused and it seems that Choopetch and his two co-writers have come a little stuck in trying to finish their story. We even have a typical ‘shock’ finish that actually comes across as being cheap and jars with the previous few minutes.
Feminists will probably have a field day with a film that presents ex–girlfriends as veering from simply clingy to totally mad, but we are clearly intended to sympathise with all the women in the film. Ken never really comes across as someone we like, though by the end of the movie he has clearly learnt the error of his ways and the effects they have had. Surprisingly and disappointingly for an Asian film with three such sexy ladies, there is no nudity and little sex, but it does get pretty gory towards the end with some gruesome self-mutilation that came along just as I was wondering how this film got it’s ‘18’ certificate when seemingly ‘stronger’ horror films get through with a ‘15’. The limited special effects do the job, though some dreadful CG shattered glass lets the side down, in a film that has not one but three fatal crashes involving fast-moving vehicles. Overall My Ex proves that Thai films are looking better and better [check out, for example, the great silhouette shots at the beginning] despite still having budgets that would probably barely count as lunch money on a Hollywood production.
Shahkrit Yamnarm, best known for the original version of Bangkok Dangerous, again proves what a solid actor he is. He refuses to fall into the trap of making Ken too likeable and convincingly suggests the emotions buried deep underneath. There is much to like about My Ex, even if it goes a little downhill after a while and clearly needed more work on the second half. A solid hit in Thailand, it quickly led to a sequel the same year, My Ex 2: Haunted Love, which from the sounds of it seems to be more than just a thoughtless cash-in. I hope that MVM, who are releasing the first film on DVD in the UK, decide to give that a UK release too.