While the legend had been around for centuries before, most Westerns were first introduced to the concept of the Krasue in the beloved cult Indonesian effort Mystics in Bali where it was associated with the legend of the penanggalan in the country. As the stories are still very much a part of Thai culture and folklore, a small resurgence of films featuring the creature have begun to make their way out to the world at large, including Sitisiri Mongkolsiri’s latest effort screening at the Five Flavours Asian film Festival.
Arriving in a remote village, Noi (Oabnithi Wiwattanawarang) quickly finds the villagers much as they were when he left as they still treat local girl Sai (Phantira Pipiyakorn) as the village outcast. Despite the best efforts of her childhood friend Jerd (Sapol Assawamunkong) to quell the locals’ hatred for the creature, the series of deaths in the area simply prompt their desire to grow further in trying to catch the Krasue hunting everyone in the village. When he inadvertently discovers that she’s the creature they’ve been hunting all along, his initial desire to care for her allows the village to relax as the lowered body count eases their minds. However, with no body to call responsible, the villagers grow restless and demand one be brought forth, putting the trio of friends in danger.
There was quite a lot to like within “Krasue.” Part of the positives here come from the decision from screenwriter Chookiat Sakveerakul to focus on a wholly undervalued aspect of the Krasue/Penanggalan legend. This takes its central premise by incorporating the cursed lineage origin story for the creature rather than the black magic route. That so few viewers are aware that the true nature of the Krasue can be spread in that manner, makes the storyline feel fresh and unique, especially with the build-up here to get the revelation about Sai’s real history. This is told in vivid dreams and flashbacks that contain the agony of being such a fearsome creature yet powerless to do anything about it as she slowly comes to be aware of her situation. That all makes the ensuing love triangle between Sai and Noi and Jerd feel impactful as the reassuring nature they provide rekindling the romance helps to ease her mind and forget the situation as they both truly care for her best interests once the secret is finally revealed. The romantic angle that emerges from that storyline setup is heartfelt and emotional, adding plenty of deep resonance to the horror that arises later on.
On top of that, the film works incredibly well with the suspenseful stalking out in the local forest. From the opening game of hide-and-seek to the Krasue hunts, the villagers partake in that are illuminated by torches, the atmosphere is incredibly impressive and chilling. These early scenes provide the early reasoning for the paranoia behind the villagers’ increasingly desperate need to find the creature responsible, when added alongside the mounting animal corpses. The actual attack scenes themselves, with the separation of the head from the body being shown and following the floating head flying through the village and surrounding jungle with the red eyes glowing brightly against the darkened backdrop, are especially eerie and chilling. As well, the encounter with the villagers looking to find the creature in the little girl showcases the fine mix of practical and CGI effects created by Sirirat Jamfah for the creature and add more to like about “Krasue.”
The biggest determining factor in the film will undoubtedly be the central romance between Sai and Noi. The idea of being able to love such a hideous, bloodsucking creature capable of dealing out the violence and terror on the villagers comes through rather strongly, what with Noi shown feeding it dead birds and animals to keep her from attacking others or standing by each other’s side despite the accusations from the other villagers to put her to death. Taking the finale into account as well, with the decision to stand up to the monstrous creature before him despite still being a simple human and then going away together to save each other from the villagers adds even more to the romantic sideplot throughout the film. Even looking at the race to cure her with the local medicines adds to the emotional impact of Sai and Noi’s relationship, bringing about an issue that might not be welcome for some who prefer more of a horror-based storyline. The sappiness from these scenes might turn viewers off as well as be seen as the reason why the film’s as long as it is. That is especially true of the constant slow-motion that drags these out to supposedly hammer home the weight behind the action. However, that is the only true flaw to be had with the film.
As there are some highly impressive and genuinely touching aspects here, “Krasue” has plenty to like for just about everyone. This is not only highly recommended for Asian horror genre fans, the curious ones looking for a new creature feature and the general film lovers who aren’t into this type of film, while viewers who aren’t swayed by the film’s elements should heed caution.