Art of the Devil 3 (2008)
Reviewed by Paul McCannibal
Starring Mamee Nakprasit, Supakorn Kitsuwan
Directed by Ronin Team
This movie is weird. I most definitely am not in tune with the subtleties and idiosyncrasies of Thai culture so maybe that’s why the movie was so weird to me. On one hand, you’ve got this family values mushy business going on, a sappy tale of a saddened household mourning the tragic loss of the mother, a death brought on in the wake of an adulterous tryst perpetrated by the father. They are so deeply devastated that they’ll resort to anything to bring mom back and make things the way they were before. They’ll even resort to… black magic!!
So you’ve got a before and after tale, the happy days before vs. the happy days now and the sad lonely interim without mom, replete with all the noxious aesthetic toppings that would befit a Lawrence Welk karaoke video. You’ve got soft focus visuals, really drippy orchestral music, family bonding moments where the sheer joy of being together is savored to excess and vocalized ad nauseum by the characters (“Oh we’re so happy! These are the happiest days we’ve ever shared!” – that kind of crap). And there’s some new-agey stuff featuring a Buddhist monk in a canoe, drifting along an idyllic river and imparting wisdom about the wheels of karma and their mystical workings.
Are you getting sleepy yet? I’ll move on to the weird part. You’ve got all of that stuff I just described, and a lot of it. Then you’ve got eyes being baby-pinned open, forced abortion action, tazered snatch, auto-disembowelments, diabolical arcane wizardry, and people gleefully sniffing one of those plastic pregnancy tester things after it’s been used. There’s a good amount of gore in this film if you like that kind of thing, it’s just that it takes awhile to get there.
So I’m not really sure what to think. There may be a very funny black comedy in here for Thai audiences, some kind of satire on wholesome family culture framed in a cautionary tale about using shady or non-virtuous methods to find happiness and peace for oneself. But I can’t tell if that’s what it is from this side of the world. To me it seemed like a weirdly heavy handed attempt to elicit horror and shock by sticking it to what appeared, at least to me, to be a vacuous and impossible to like family. It’s hard for me to care about characters that I don’t like or have any measurable affinity for. I wouldn’t want to be as sickeningly happy as the people in this family, because I’d be smiling so hard all the time that my head would split in half.
The cool stuff that I liked in the movie involved the black magic rituals and the tattooed black magician guy. He was cool! There was also some dread-infused dialogue and chanting about the “3 Eyed God” whatever that is. There were some really beautiful shots of the Thai jungle and countryside, and a visually striking set piece involving a farm windmill. And the movie had some decent mean spirited scenes here and there that kind of worked on a trashy level.
Overall, I just don’t really understand whether the movie was supposed to be funny or scary, or what exactly I was supposed to take away from it at the end. You can’t go telling me it’s awful to be awful to others while doing exactly that to all the characters in the movie. It’s kind of hypocritical. Art of the Devil 3 is watchable but this one is probably best left to Thai cult cinema completists.
2 1/2 out of 5
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