AMAD-Horror Edition: Buppah Rahtree: Curse of the Night Flower

12 Oct



cinemagrade b+Thailand’s Buppah Rahtree: Curse of the Night Flower is exactly the kind of film that makes writing this column so much fun. It’s a pleasing genre mash-up of slapstick comedy, gut-wrenching drama and creeping dread. There are so many delightful twists and turns that I felt elated instead of jerked around. The movie comes from a country not really known for their compelling horror pictures and ends up trumping the entire lot of recent Asian ghost stories. However, instead of being a new release, Buppah was actually made in 2003; by this point, it already has a couple of sequels to its name.

Buppah Rahtree begins with a disarming coda similar to Takashi Miike’s highly disturbing Audition. It could almost be the Thai version of a chick flick, with young, rich cad Ake seeing quiet student Buppah Rahtree(whose name means Flower of the Night) at the college library and becoming bewitched by her. As their courtship progesses into physical intimacy it becomes clear that each participant has different ideas about it. Buppah is smitten with Ake, and he is the first love she has ever had. A bright, intelligent girl, she believes he is worth opening up to and embracing completely. Unfortunately, she’s picked the wrong guy.

Ake may be falling for Buppah as time progresses, but he initially goes after her in order to win a bet he made with friends. The stipulations of this bet;  that he could bed her within a time-frame of their choosing. He does so, and wins a bottle of wine but trashes Buppah’s life in his wake. She ends up pregnant, Ake plans on leaving, and he eventually pressures her into getting an abortion under the concession that he will stay with her.

As one could predict, Ake leaves town anyway and Buppah finds herself alone in her apartment, damaged both internally and emotionally. She is losing her mind and her life, and eventually dies in pools of blood and tears, alone, abandoned and distraught to the point of insanity.

At this point, I considered ditching the film. So skillfull was that beginning passage that not only did I find myself emotionally undone I wasn’t sure I wanted anymore undoing at that particular time. Thankfully, Buppah Rahtree makes a complete shift in the second portion of the film, and it’s this passage that makes the movie what it is and the primary reason I can safely recommend it here.

You see, without Buppah and Ake present, Rahtree loses its focal point. So, it gets new ones in the form of Buppah’s fellow apartment complex residents. And what characters they are! There are a pair of brutish transvestite hairdressers who sort of look like Nell Carter crossed with a bulldog. In another apartment the meek landlord and his shrill wife dwell, and their screeching quarrels can he heard everywhere. There are numerous others, including a wily old fraud of a ghost-buster.

Then, Buppah Rahtree  manages to do what Lady in the Water attempted but failed; it brings all these cast-offs together via interaction with a supernatural female presence who disrupts life at this grimy little hideaway. The difference is that Buppah Rahtree doesn’t come back from the dead with messages from the Blue World. She comes back with one single intention: to scare the heck out of these buffoons and imprint her tragedy, misery and betrayal on every broken stone of the place.

And, suprisingly,the entire campaign is terribly funny. Really. The corpse wiggles spastically everytime police try to remove it from the building. Buppah is intially chilling in her visitations, but as time passes she realizes her power over everyone  and gets sadistic kicks out of messing with them. For instance, one of the portly hairdressers is making his way down the sidewalk and Buppah leaps out from behind a wall, skipping joyfully toward him and cackling like a banshee as she goes. With no other recourse, the big man throws himself violently into the bushes and crawls away. This behavior progresses until we get the film’s spectacular showcase: a series of “cleansings” where the residents enlist the help of three different ghost fighters to purge the room of Buppah’s presence.

It doesn’t go down like they planned. I won’t say more about all this except to say that it’s as funny and as energetic as something you would expect from classic Sam Raimi. Really, it’s that good. The best joke involves a team of Thai priests who literally try to recite passages from the film version of The Exorcist to get rid of Buppah. What they get for their troubles is the recieving end of a beatdown from a ticked off ghost with a bow staff. Yes, a bow staff.

Buppah Rahtree turns one final time in the last third of the picture when Ake returns, feeling miserable and repentant over what he did to Buppah. What he finds when he gets to the apartment isn’t exactly what he left, or what the residents have faced. Buppah is there, seemingly cheerful and happy to see Ake. Since Ake has no idea that she died after he left, things work out well enough at first. But we, the audience, are just waiting for the other shoe to drop. And in a movie like Buppah Rahtree, when the shoe drops it’s likely the whole leg will go with it.

Again, this is a movie best discovered for yourself. I might have said too much already. It’s a real shame it doesn’t have a legitimate U.S. DVD release but I hope one day this will be remedied. Movies like Buppah Rahtree are the spice of the genre.

Check out the trailer here:

One Response to “AMAD-Horror Edition: Buppah Rahtree: Curse of the Night Flower”

  1. Xiphos October 13, 2009 at 12:04 pm #

    I should try some of these foriegn movies. They’ve never been my thing since I view movies primarily as entertainment and I don’t want to work to hard while watching. I guess I should broaden my horizons.

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