Prachya Pinkaew becomes the second director this year to tackle the story of Thailand's Krasue spirit with the release of his latest film "Sisters"
SLIGHTLY more than a month after Transformation Films’ re-interpretation of the time-worn ghostly tale “Sang Krasue” (“Inhuman Kiss”) hit cinemas, a second film focusing on this spirit whose head with the body’s internal organs hanging from it hovers above the ground at night, comes to theatres on April 4.
Directed by Prachya Pinkaew, “Krasue Siam” (“Sisters”) is set in contemporary Thailand and focuses on teenage sisters Veena (Ployyukol Rojanakatanyu) and Mora (Nannaphas “Mewnich BNK48” Loetnamchoetsakun) who have lived with their father (Supakorn Kijsuwan) since their mother, a krasue hunter, died. Veena has to take care of her younger sister who has inherited the krasue curse and whose body is currently in the transformation stage. In the meantime, Mora is being closely watched by Ratree (Ratha Pho-ngam), queen of the Krasue tribe, who is waiting to take revenge for her mother’s acts.
This is the first horror ghost movie by the director of the action blockbuster series “Ong Bak” and “Tom Yum Goong” but the idea for “Krasue Siam” goes all the way back to 1997 when Prachya was working at Grammy (GMM). Back then, he was thinking of calling it “Krasue 2000” or “Krasue Y2K” and it was on his list of projects to develop alongside “Ong Bak.” After he left Grammy and went to work on “Ong Bak” with Sahamongkol Films, the project was shelved until the right time came around.
“While I was busy on other projects, I watched several films about the krasue ghost so I’m confident that my version will be different,” he says.
Nor did he mind when he heard that Transformation Films had started work on the “Sang Krasue” project, knowing that it would be different from his.
“It’s a good opportunity to see two different krasues in two weeks and it will mean that young people know more about this traditional spirit rather than forgetting it as has happened in the past,” says Prachya.
And the two films are indeed very different. “Sang Krasue” is set in World War II and is a romantic drama with the protagonist Sai trying to free herself of the curse. “Sisters” draws more on vampire series and movies.
Prachya has been fascinated with the ghastly ghost since he watched Krasue Sao” starring Pitsamai Wilaisak as a child. “I was so scared,” he laughs.
Krasue is best known as a ghost who haunts a village as she tries to find food – usually the inner organs of livestock. People see her as a red flame hovering in the dark and where they spot the head and the intestines trailing below, become terrified even though she is no threat to them and will return to her normal body during the day.
She is not a ghost in the true sense of the word as she manifests as a normal teenager during the day. She is not an evil spirit killing people. She lives a quiet life and what she eats is just waste or the inner organs of animals.
“But what if the krasue lived in a big city like Bangkok with neon lights everywhere? How would she appear then? The krasue in “Sisters” are not single entities but a whole clan of ghosts able to remove their heads,” he says.
In “Sisters”, Mora becomes infected with the krasue virus as a consequence of her late mother’s actions in hunting the ghosts. “I try to explain the nature of the krasue. She’s different from what we have seen in the past,” says the director.
Prachya also points to Thailand’s other famous ghost, Mae Nak Phra Khanong. “Her story has a much stronger storyline compared to krasue. All films portray her the same way – sneaking out at night, getting hunted down and passing on the curse to her successor,” he says.
Because Mae Nak’s husband Pee Mak isn’t aware that his wife died in childbirth, it has been easy for a succession of directors, among them Nonzee Nimibutr and Banjong Pisunthanakun, to bring new interpretations of the story to the screen. With Krasue, there’s a constant struggle to come up with new ideas and that kills its value.
“I like the peculiar appearance of the krasue but it is undeniably more difficult to portray the shape as it requires strong visual techniques and these have never really been up to par. In some movies, the ghost was made by dangling a pig’s heart and intestines from a sling and dragging it on a line above the ground. Many times the story has ended up as a cheap comedy,” he says.
Perhaps to up the marketing value, both “Sisters” and “Sang Krasue” have chosen to make their heroine a young teenage girl rather than an old woman.
In the new film, Mora is played by young actress and BNK48 member Mewnich worked as a child actress before being selected for the second generation of BNK48 though she landed the part before joining the idol group. For her part, Ployyukol earlier appeared in Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit’s short.
“Sisters” started shooting early last year but, with visual effects required for more than 300 scenes, spent a long time in post production.
“Thai audiences are smarter as they have grown up watching Hollywood movies with terrific special effects like superhero movies from Marvel and blockbusters. They even notice flaws in Hollywood movies. Special effects on Thai films wilt in comparison so that makes it hard for us. We have skilled people but we face budget and manpower limitations,” Prachya explains.
“And audience behaviour has also changed, especially with the arrival of streaming services like Netflix and iflix. It’s no longer necessary to go to the cinema to see a film. The magic of the big screen is in decline and so each movie must have something that draws spectators to the cinema. Superhero or action films still have that charm but romantic dramas and comedies have lost their strength,” he says.
“You can’t blame the killing of movie magic on new technology, as it has been created to give people what they want and that’s why its popularity continues to grow. I like it myself and am not in the least opposed to it. However as a filmmaker, it’s my job to make my movie shine brighter than streaming magic,” he concludes.