Day 6 and we’re back to Thailand (by way of Singapore) for the Thai Conspiacy Thriller “Burn” aka “คนไฟลุก” (Khon Fai Look). This is another of those recent Thai films I’ve had to do a bit of searching to find…. and this time I scored a success in Singapore with their recent release… all English subtitled and ready for my viewing pleasure!!
Our synopsis is as follows: “A horrific incident takes place when a woman suddenly bursts into flames for no apparent reason. She becomes victim to the phenomenon known worldwide as Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC). Mona (played by Bongkot Kongmalai) is the victim’s daughter, who is forced to get involved with the case. She meets a nurse named Ploy (played by Archiraya Peeraphatkunchaya) whose mother also is killed by SHC. Don (played by Charad Na Songkhla) is a police investigator who gets suspicious of the cause of these incidents. With his investigator’s instinct and a devotion to justice, Don takes on the mysterious fire case to try to stop it from happening again. Will the truth behind the deadly fire be exposed as a suicide, murder, accident or the sacrifice to superstitious belief? The mystery must be solved before the dreadful fire burns another victim alive!”
This one isn’t actually a horror movie… more of a Scifi oriented Conspiracy Thriller…. but hey, it’s got people “Spontaneously Bursting into Fire”!! That sounds like it’s up this lil’ Catgirl’s alley… So will it be a nifty Police Procedural? A preachy warning about science and evil corporations run amok? Or just a really… really dumb excuse for a movie?
Hmmmm? Guess you’ll all just have to “Read On” and find out!!
Back in 2008, when I first heard of it originally, I thought this one was a horror film…. and early marketing for it certainly didn’t dissuade me from that notion, but having finally watched this one, I can now say, that rather than being yet another entry into the ranks of Thai horror films, “Burn” is instead firmly a Thriller…. no doubt about it. But that’s OK… Neko likes those too, if they are well done and thought provoking.
This one definitely plays to a Thai audience and their general feeling that most foreigners are out to exploit the hard working honest Thai people….. Sigh….. I suppose it’s not a new notion, but it’s certainly a hard one for a non-Thai to constantly run up against watching Thai films. At least this time it’s more about the evils of Mega Corporations and their seeming ability to be “above the law” and beyond the power of any government to control them instead of a tirade against any specific country. I suppose a culture needs to clearly define themselves with this sort of “Us versus. Them” kind of ideology but it’s still a bit of a pain. I guess it’s why I prefer fantasy films….. everybody can hate and fear monsters, aliens, or zombies without invoking any objectionable bias.
Anyways…. this one is mostly the story of Mona (played by Bongkot Kongmalai) a modern Thai woman working a modern job for a multi-national securities trading corporation. She’s doing everything she can to climb the ladder of success…. including living in a swank high rise condominium that is waaay out of her price range. She’s ashamed of her roots as the only daughter of a simple merchant woman, living out a day to day existence in Bangkok. They don’t get along at all…. Mom feels her daughter is too wiling to give up her “Thai-ness” to fit in with her bosses and is constantly being asked for money to help her “affluent” daughter maintain her lifestyle despite barely scraping by herself. Mona feels her mother is foolish and old fashioned and should be proud of her for making something of herself… and thankful for the free health care benefits Mona’s job provides her mother. They exist in different worlds…. and it’s this reason that causes Mona to be unaware of just how sick her mother really is. Until the terrible night she bursts into flame alone at her tiny home……
Thus begins Mona’s quest to understand just what happened to her Mom. She gets only limited help… despite the weirdness of the death. The Thai police seem only interested in making the incident just go away…. except for one officer, Don, who makes it his personal mission to unravel the mystery behind not only Mona’s mother’s death, but the seemingly unrecognized epidemic of similar deaths cropping up all over Thailand.
Naturally all the clues eventually lead them to the Terradyne corporation…. and to their new osteoporosis drug. It’s a killer…. causing humans who take it to suffer terrible pain and eventually causing them to burst into flame….. just why is only hinted at. We get told the drug has great potential as a bioweapon for military use…. but this has to be the stupidest way to test such a weapon ever thought up. Still… if you ignore this little flaw, the film itself has all the trappings needed for the genre. Nasty CEO’s, vicious unprincipled doctors, and a crack security force willing to kill for them all to cover up their little secrets. There’s even the prerequisite dirty cop on the payroll…
So… does all of this work? Well… sort of. I can’t say “Burn” is a bad movie…. in fact it’s technically very well made, but it certainly isn’t a new idea. I suppose I’m a bit disappointed it wasn’t a horror movie, but even that doesn’t truly explain why I was unimpressed by this one overall. The characters weren’t really all that sympathetic to me…. even hard working cop Don came across as sort of wooden to me, and Mona herself was too self involved and spoiled to have appeal even when she’s seeking justice for her Mom.
Given that, I guess I’ll have to give “Burn” barely a grudging 3 “Meows” out of 5…. (mostly for honest cop on the beat Don and his CSI buddy….) it’s simply unremarkable for the most part with nothing new or surprising… nothing scary… and nothing uplifting or touching to make me feel involved in the story at all. The Singapore DVD is well done as usual, with wide screen format and good sound and nice accurate English subtitles, if nothing beyond that. Unless conspiracies are your thing, I’d give this a pass unless you are a crazed film junkie like this lil’ girl who just has to watch about any Thai film that HAS subtitles…. but next time it’s a real horror movie for me!!
Naturally…. I’ve hunted down the Trailer… promptly pounced on it, smacked it around to calm it down and dragged it back here for your viewing pleasure!! Enjoy!