Zee Oui (2005)

Starring Nida Sudasna, Buranee Rachjaibun, Parames Rachjaibun, Deborah Kampmeier

Directed Nida Sudasna, Buranee Rachjaibun

Is Thailand a super secret horror film mecca? I can’t imagine that any other country in the world would nominate a film about a cannabilistic child killer for eight academy awards. Seriously, could you imagine a movie that had Dakota Fanning, with her heart cut out sitting in a pile of her own guts? Ok, bad example, we’ve all pictured that, but I still don’t see Billy Crystal doing a best picture musical number about it.

Zee Oui, the titular character, is a recent Chinese immigrant to Thailand. He arrives as a stowaway, destitute and without any family. After being renamed Zee Oui by a border guard who refuses to recognize his Chinese name, he strikes out trying to make a better life for himself, so he can send for his mother.

His first job is slaughtering chickens for a wealthy butcher. After being repeatedly humiliated by the family, particularly the two young daughters, Zee Oui flees, becoming a train-hopping hobo. Things go from bad to worse, as terrible living conditions and backbreaking labor cause Zee Oui’s childhood asthma to flare up, resulting in tuberculosis. His humiliation continues, as he is now bullied for being not only a “chink”, but now a “sickly chink” too boot.

One night, while having a nightmare, Zee Oui wakes up to find that he has mistakenly killed his boss’s young daughter. His illness, isolation and guilt causes an irreparable mental breakdown, which results in Zee Oui progressing from an accidental killer to a willful child murderer. He begins butchering children because he believes making a tea from their hearts will ease his illness. Can I getta’ Fucked Up!?

The problematic thing about the film is that Zee Oui is always portrayed in a sympathetic light. The children are completely dehumanized; we never get to know them before they’re killed, making it difficult to condemn the main character. This empathetic tone, coupled with the classical monster movie cinematography had me thinking of Frankenstein on more than one occasion. The problem with this association is that Frankenstein really isn’t a bad guy; chucking “pigtails” in the lake was an accident, whereas Zee Oui is cutting up little kids to make Robitussin. Big difference.

I’m not complaining about the moral ambiguity of the film; this is the most interesting part of Zee Oui. I’m bemoaning the fact that a movie that shows graphic depictions of violence towards children ends up not being disturbing in the slightest. Unfortunately, all the award nominations Zee Oui received aren’t any indication that Thailand respects the horror genre more than North America. After all Zee Oui isn’t even a horror movie…

2 out of 5

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Jon Condit

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