Well… weird funk or not, it’s time this wee lady forces herself to get with it and get back to what we do here at the ol’ Litterbox, and that’s reviewing all the goofiest horror movies any other self respecting lady would pass up in a heartbeat. It’s October… and as promised, we’re celebrating Halloween with my annual Halloween Movie Review Festival. This time out… vampire movies, and what better way to start than with my first ever Cambodian horror movie, 2004’s “vampire-witch with flying head” film, “Nieng Arp”?
Our synopsis? Ok… “In the middle of a long night, a young woman and her boyfriend are confronted by a group of gangsters on their way home. The girl is then violently raped and her lover is killed by the brutal action of the cruel gangsters. During her loss of consciousness, she later is possessed by an old vampire witch because the saliva of a witch’s head accidentally fell on her mouth, immediately making her part of the next generation of Arp ghosts. After becoming an Arp, she takes vengeance on the gang that raped her.
A group of students come to her house, discovering her true identity by unlocking several secrets in the basement under her lonely villa. One by one the students are killed by the Arp. However, all of the female students are spared. One male survivor does escape and manages to find a new way to be rid of the evil spirit of Arp and thus save his lover, who happens to be the Arp’s daughter, from inheriting the curse of the Flying Vampire”
Oooohhh!! Sounds like a winner. Right? At least it certainly did waaaay back when I first heard of it about a decade ago. However, Cambodian DVD’s are about as difficult for me to get here in the good ol’ US as they can be, so actually finding this one was a major undertaking. But… as with all things, that just means your Favorite Catgirl has to be patient. If I’m lucky, a film like this eventually finds it’s way into my grasp. Just this month, it finally did, English subtitles and all. So now… if you are curious about just how good Cambodian Horror films might possibly be, then just “Read On” and let this obsessive Catgirl tell you all about it. 😉
Well… although I usually prefer to find a DVD… or at worst a VCD… to be able to actually see this one I ended up encountering a Youtube video with embedded English subtitles. Not the best choice for viewing I admit, but given the scarcity of Cambodian DVD’s in my neck of the woods, sometimes beggars can’t be choosers. The nice thing? Well, it meant I’d watch this one by myself on my computer without having to subject my sweetie to what I had the sneaking suspicion might be a rather… **ahem**… primitive bit of film-making who’s appeal would be it’s sheer novelty if anything else.
One look on a quiet afternoon while my dear wife was at work convinced me I’d definitely made the right choice. Let’s be charitable, and simply say that apparently Cambodia’s film industry is still in it’s infancy… and that the “baby” has some serious growing to do. 😉
Story wise, we get a fairly simple plot, thank goodness. It’s set in modern Cambodia, out in the rural reaches of Battambang province. We start off as a young peasant girl struggles with the pain of going into labor, much to the annoyance of her neighbors and family. Seems she’s made the poor choice to have her baby on the one night that the local opera troupe is giving a performance. Seriously. She’s moaning in terrible pain, and obviously in need of help, but the only dialog we get is just how much missing that opera performance is cramping her mom’s style. Sheesh!!
She has the baby… but all this commotion has drawn the attention of this creepy old woman who turns out to be an Arp… yes, a local version of one of those crazy flying “vampire head witch” thingees like the pennangalan from Malaysia or the krasue from Thailand. It shows up after dark to swoop into her room and eat the baby, maybe snack on some menstrual blood or whatever. This is when you know the film is seriously cheesy, giving us this badly video superimposed woman’s head clumsily moving through the air with all the grace of a bad high-school Halloween prank. No… wait a moment… high-school pranks have gotten pretty darn sophisticated these days since computer skills have improved among our nation’s youth… this, on the other hand, is soooo much worse. Not even worse in that “so bad and stupid it’s quaint” way either…. this wee Catgirl just means the “special effects” on display really… and I mean really… suck. Not kidding ya…. No better way to say it. I just guess Cambodian audiences have way lower expectations, as this particular film is actually a huge box-office smash there. Seriously. 😉
Anyways… our vampire hag gets driven off by the villagers, and wounded by a spear which sends her and her drippy innards flying off to our next scene… Here, lovely local beauty Maya and her boyfriend are walking home from that big opera show they mentioned earlier when a group of nasty local thugs waylay them in the lonely jungle, kill Maya’s boyfriend and then proceed to violently gang rape her. After they leave her lying unconscious in the jungle to go do whatever it is nasty thugs do to celebrate a thing like a gang rape, the vampire hag crashes into the trees above her and some of it’s icky essence drips down into Maya’s mouth. Apparently that’s sufficient to pass along the curse of the vampire….
Sixteen years pass, and we catch up with Maya, who now lives with her daughter Paulika in the same village and who now transforms at night into our title monster to fly about seeking her vengeance on the thugs who killed her lover and violated her. Okey dokey then… all we need is some teenage victims to pad things out and we’ve got us a horror story, right?
Don’t worry. Right on schedule we get our requite college students on holiday to picturesque Battambang to do some school study on the ancient Khmer ruins in the area. We get the standard stereotypical group. Our handsome hunky hero Satha, his best buddy, the requisite gay guy… sigh… and two or three girls including the “brainy one” with a crush on our hero, her best girlfriend the “pudgy one”, and another one who just tags along to be an extra victim when the plot starts to drag. Names? Do you really think you need them? No, no, no… just move along… trust Neko, you’ll thank me. 😉
So of course, the gang needs a place to stay here in rural Batammbang, so naturally they stop by Madam Maya’s and get offered free lodging so long as they behave themselves and promise never to go into the basement. Oh… yeah… like that’s gonna stop them….
Anyways… in between Maya’s nightly jaunts to find and kill those gang guys, we get a chaste lil’ love story developing between pretty Paulika and hunky Satha, all the while our other kids keep seeing the creepy vampire head flying here and there. More terrible video compositing and a practical effect worthy of a groan or two: a truly awful dolls head with what I presume to be real intestines stuffed into it all hanging from a wire swung about enthusiastically by a boom guy. I tell you, Ed Wood would be sooooo envious… Hehehehe!!
The story drags…. None of the murders is particularly inventive or even scary. Our group of amateur “Scooby-Doo” wannabees can seem to figure out they are in danger until Maya get’s the idea they “know too much”. Weird given that she could easily have avoided “those meddling kids” by simply not allowing them to stay at her home. But… I guess we wouldn’t have had much of a movie then.
Well… do we at least learn any of the folklore behind our title monster? Ummmm? Not really. Pretty much the Arp wants to just fly around at night waving it’s innards about until some brave peasant figures out that if your guts are just hanging there it’s pretty easy to mess you up by using any of the standard pointy weapons of death to whack them. No silver weapons or sticky rice needed. I kid you not.
Whew…. how this movie managed to pad it’s run time to over two hours is soooo beyond me. I seriously was about done by the time I was half way through this snooze fest. But… I’d been searching for this film for over a decade, so your Favorite Catgirl bravely soldiered on till the well overdue and ultimately stupid finish. So then, did the evil Maya get her revenge? Do Satha and Paulika survive to live happily ever after? Do you even care?
Gotta say. I like trashy movies. But this one was the “Bataan Death March” of horror movies… an experience I’d never want to live through again. It just… plain… stunk…. My sweet Carolyn owed me some serious sweet kisses for sparing her this one… and promptly paid me in full after I told her how terrible it was. 😉 This film earns a paltry single “Meow” out of 5, earning that one only by virtue of being so utterly silly that it will make almost any other movie I ever watch seem like a masterpiece by comparison. Thank you, o’ thank you, Youtube for making it possible for me to see this one without the indignity of having to actually buy it in any format. Sorry Cambodia, but it’s the truth…. Maybe there’s a worse film out there…. and I hear Nigeria makes some truly wretched ones…. but I’m pretty sure I’m gonna have to look long and hard to find that film.
Trailer? Not bloody likely for this one… However, as I said, the entire film is actually currently available at Youtube, at least until somebody complains, I suppose, so if you are so inclined, why not pop over there and give it a watch? But remember… it’s bad, and not in a “good” way.