Thursday, January 2, 2014

Film Review: Laddaland (2011)

Laddaland (Review)
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...enough to scare me quite a bit."

Thee (Saharath Sangkapreecha) moves his wife, daughter, and son to a new house in a gated community called Laddaland. However, Laddaland isn't as joyous as it sounds...

Laddaland continues as a traditional Thailand ghost story, but manages to be a little more. When a neighbor dies, the family begin to see ghosts. Thee won't accept it, his wife is reluctant, their rebellious daughter is frightened to the point of moving, and their son really doesn't mind. But, the hardships of his life begin to take toll, and the ghosts add enough stress to break him and his family. As the community abandon their homes, Thee stands his ground. The final act of the film becomes a bit too hectic and cliché, but the actual ending was unexpected; a unbelievably sad ending that will probably split audience as it just doesn't seem fair -- but that's part of its effectiveness.

First, most of the characters in Laddaland are annoying. Thee is a pushover, but he's tolerable. His wife starts off tolerable, but she's really just an illogical cheater who gets worse as the film progresses. Thee's mother-in-law, who we never see, is annoying and manipulative. Thee's daughter is actually manipulated by her grandmother into hating her father and she's generally irritating. Then, Thee's new neighbor is abusive to his family and disrespectful. Ultimately, I didn't like most of the characters, but I didn't fault the film much because of that; I understand I won't like every character in every film, and, ultimately, it all pieces together well.

Although the story is a bit cliché, Laddaland offers enough unique elements to stand on its own. There are many emotional aspects in the film we really don't see in horror films nowadays. There is also quite a bit of character, no matter how unlikable, in the film, which is surprising. The horror is mostly loud music jump-scares with some suspense and disturbing visuals. Out the dozens of jump-scares, there were quite a few that were really jolting. These jolting jump-scares, along with the suspense and disturbing ghost designs, were enough to scare me quite a bit. The runtime felt a bit bloated, especially towards the end, but it was tolerable. On that point, the daring ending is almost devastating; a fitting ending for a film that plays the polar opposite of a feel-good film.

The entire cast is great in this film. Saharath Sangkapreecha is especially impressive with a strong performance with great emotion. The special effects are great, although it barely relies on them. The cinematography is great, the film is beautifully captured. Sophon Sakdaphisit's direction is great, really crafting a terryfing tale through great consistency, atmosphere, and suspense. The writing is a bit cliché, but it is also occasionally daring and original. The film is technically well made.

Overall, Laddaland is a great Thai horror film with an emotional story, great character, and a gallery of jump-scares. If you're a fan of Asian horror or jump-scares (like those found in Ju-on: The Grudge or Insidious), then this film is definitely for you. Being a hardcore fan of Asian horror, my honest score is a 7/10, my biased score is an 8/10 -- I know it has flaws.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood.

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