AKA FAN MAI [Thailand 2010]
OUT ON DVD: 3rd June
RUNNING TIME: 82 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Cee and her friends go to see My Ex at the cinema, after which her older sister Bowie, who is a famous actress, states that a sequel is in the works. Cee has a boyfriend, Aof, who is no good, but the imploring of her friends to leave him fall on deaf ears. Cee gets a part in the film, but catches her boyfriend with another woman called Ying, who, when she overhears a conversation between Cee and Aof where Aof says that Ling means nothing to him, throws herself off the top of a building to her death. Cee breaks it off with Aof and retreats to an exotic island with her sister and friends for a break, but it seems that something far worse than Aof follows her there……
Sequels can, for the most part, do one of two things. They can either carry on the story of the first film, or be another and separate adventure of one or more of the protagonists in it. Very occasionally, they can be almost a remake. My Ex 2: Haunted Lover isn’t really any of these. Though it deals with the same themes of jealousy, guilt and supernatural vengeance, and has similar situations like the person being harassed going on a break to what should be a haven from all her toils and troubles and being pursued there by the ghost, it’s a somewhat different story. One of the actresses in My Ex turns up in this film in a bigger role, the movie opens with the girls in the film watching said film in a cinema, and they are clearly filming the sequel during the events of My Ex 2 [yes, at times this does venture into Scream territory] but to be honest, you could watch My Ex 2 quite satisfactorily without having seen My Ex. It won’t affect your enjoyment of it.
Is it a better film? In some ways yes, in some ways no. My Ex was gripping and frightening for its first half, than ran out of steam somewhat and, while it got back on track towards the end, decided to give us two more endings than we needed. Showing off Choopetch’s visual flair to good effect, it was still a good example of Thai horror which was easy for western viewers to assimilate while still retaining some of the uniqueness of the country and culture from which it comes. I don’t think that many will say the sequel carries off the last point as well. While the story is easy to follow and relate to, it contains quite a few references to Thai religious customs and spiritual practices which many western viewers just won’t get. Me, I love it when I watch things like this which I don’t really understand but manage to get the gist of, but I reckon some may want certain things explained a bit. This is only a minor flaw, and from personal taste and enjoyment I don’t really consider it a flaw, but many might.
The opening titles pass by in a dreamlike manner as we see what seems to mostly be images from throughout the film. The shots are often startling, sometimes darkly beautiful, and set to eerie wordless female vocal singing. A good start, and soon after this we have a superbly staged suicide, where we see the head smashing against the ground, and the disturbing site of a young girl witnessing this, but as we see the blood-spraying body falling into a swimming pool from under the water, it all gets rather disturbingly pretty to look at, as if Choopetch has been influenced by the aesthetic beauty of what filmmakers like Mario Bava and Dario Argento often brought to their death scenes. As with My Ex, My Ex 2 gets going almost immediately and, as with that film, gets quite scary very quickly. He relies less on the common but irritating tendency to enhance a shock with a loud musical sting, so that I only barely, noticed, for instance, someone talking on a telephone while the ghost is seen standing on a balcony the other side of some curtains. And there is one superbly staged scene which follows one girl scaring another with a mask. The one doing the scaring sits on the floor and looks in horror at something under the bed, though we can’t really make anything out. We cut to a shot from under the bed, and get a good jump-scare of the other girl’s face appearing, looking down to see what is terrifying the other girl so much. Then we see the ghost crawling out, almost spider-walking like Regan.
In fact you’ll have seen the same sort of visuals in depicting the ghost loads of times before if you’re into your Asian horror, and at times I wished for a bit more originality in depicting the spook in this film. The proceedings start to get rather repetitive too, but then the story suddenly changes and people and events are shown to be not as they seem. As with the first film, there is much use of flashbacks to fill in gaps in events that we only partially witnessed earlier, or even finish scenes that we had previously seen incomplete. It’s all a bit of a cheat, to be honest, but the audacious switch to being what is first and foremost a ghost story to a tale more about madness, but still with a supernatural slant, works really well, if not that original really. The climactic scenes may not give us the terrifying finale the early sections of the film may suggest, but they really demonstrates Choopetch’s increasing mastery of cinema as we are treated to a phantasmagorical wave of images that may borrow from directors of the likes of Tobe Hooper and Lucio Fulci [in fact throughout, the film seems to be fascinated with people’s eyes] but have quite a powerful effect when put together.
My Ex 2 attempts to have its cake and eat it by showing some things to be ‘all a dream’, while also having a scene where people talk about how horror films often rely on dream scenes, but also has some interesting moments where what we are watching actually turns out to be a scene from the film [the sequel to My Ex] that is being shot. I wished that the film had gone further in this self-reflexive manner, blurring the gap between reality and staged illusion, because, while Wes Craven got there first, My Ex 2 is shot in a more stylised way and thereby has a very different feel. Choopetch and his scriptwriter Adirek Wattaleela almost frustratingly hint at a more interesting picture than the one we are watching, but their film is still quite gripping, with less of the half-way slowing down that My Ex had. There also seems to be less reliance on CGI this time, and actually less gore as well. There is one pretty gruesome knife slashing, but I don’t really think the film merits an ‘18’ certificate overall.
The acting is a bit of a mixed bag, and star Ratchawin Wongviriya only seems to have variations on one expression, but in a way this is suited to her character who constantly seems to be withholding something. My Ex 2 has a short scene after the end credits which hints at a sequel, and a more conventional one than this. I don’t know how I feel about this. My Ex 2, despite being partly built from the parts of other movies and not really giving us anything new, is effective and compelling enough to almost atone for those flaws, but I’m not sure where else they can go with it. In the mean time, even if you haven’t seen My Ex, check out this solid sequel, which taking everything into account I would rank just slightly above the original,if not quite enough to give it an extra half star. You may have seen it all before and may pick it apart afterwards, but during the film you may also be too gripped to care. And I think that Choopetch is developing the directorial talent to make some really great films in the future.