Original Title: Puen Tee Raluek
Director: Sophon Sakdaphisit
Genre: Horror, Thriller
When the Asian financial crisis reaches their family, two teenagers make a pact of committing suicide together, but only one of the girls carry on with the plan, while the other becomes a vengeful spirit.
1997 Financial Crisis
In 1997 an economic crisis began in Thailand and later spread to other Southeastern and Eastern Asian countries, hurting some more and some less.
In The Promise, this economic crisis is the event that led to every disgrace that follows. In the movie, the explanation came in the form of a montage of many news programs showing.
The 97 Crisis was the result of various factors, but the straw that broke the camel’s back was when the Thai government decided to detach the Thai baht from the American dollar, leading to a major decrease in the currency’s value. (Source)
I know this case is much more complex, but now is not the time or place to go deeper in the case.
I tried finding articles about the human impact of this crisis, but I could not find anything I liked to show here. The backstory that originated the plot of The Promise is, above all, the effect the crisis had on people’s lives, not just as economic numbers.
We can find a lot of articles about the economy, finance, and politics, but every crisis has real people who suffer immensely and are usually treated like just a minor detail.
This movie shows, in a supernatural way, the lives of those affected by the crisis.
The teenagers Boum (Thunyaphat Pattarateerachaicharoen) and Ib (Panisara Rikulsurakan) are best friends, both come from rich families and got used to their privileged lives.The Promise (Region A Blu-ray) (English & Chinese Subtitled) Thai movie aka Puen Tee Raluek / 屍約
Their fathers were partners in a business venture building a tower. The penthouse of this tower became their favorite place to hang out. The building so far consisted of a full concrete frame structure and very little else.
When the 1997 crisis began, their families face financial ruin, so they halt the construction of the tower. Ib’s father becomes violent, while Boum’s father completely loses his mind.
Tired of all that, the two girls promise to commit suicide together in the top of the building, so Ib steals her father’s revolver and the girls proceed with the plan.
Ib is the first to pull the trigger, but when Boum sees her friend dying in front of her, she breaks her promise and runs away from the building.
After twenty years, Boum (Bee Namthip) seems to be a relatively successful woman, a widow raising her almost fifteen-years-old daughter, Bell (Apichaya Thongkham). However, after some failed endeavors, she is going through some financial difficulties and approaching bankruptcy.
In this difficult moment, Boum inherits the tower where Ib committed suicide and a new investment in the tower my save her company. So during their first visit to the place, Bell finds Ib’s old pager and takes home with her.
From the founding of the pager on, Bell starts to sleepwalk and act strange, of course, under the influence of Ib’s vengeful spirit.
The movie centers mostly in the interaction between Boum and Bell, this mother and daughter relationship is what drives the movie. So we will begin talking about the two actresses in the roles.
Apichaya Thongkham as Bell, the daughter, is very good and impressed me a lot, her acting seemed natural and fluid. At first, she is a happy and very active girl, exploring the building and taking pictures of everything, but as things get worst, her acting also changes, while keeping the good quality.
Bee Namthip as Boum, the mother, is amazing. She seemed a desperate mother trying to protect her daughter, and even reminded me of Essie Davis in The Babadook, one of my favorite performances ever.
Essie Davis aside, Namthip’s have a lot of credit, because her acting was incredible, I was hypnotized by her performance and the amount of emotion she transmitted.
The cinematography is very good, especially in the scenes involving the tower, and the same can be said about the camera movement. The camera movement is very important in this film because it provides suspense, some scares, and especially to put things in perspective.
Through the various camera angles and movements we have a better notion of the height of the tower, the danger of sitting in the balcony of the girls home, the view one can have of the city of Bangkok from the top of the tower and even the exquisite and beautiful architecture of the tower.
For example, when Bell is exploring the tower, she reaches a balcony and the camera slowly moves away from her, revealing a view of the tower from the top, with nice architecture and signs of aging, plants growing, a very gorgeous shot.
Another thing I loved was the score. At first, is just a very good score, but later, in some tense moments, the music makes even more intense, and sometimes even disturbing. Is one of the best horror movie scores I can remember, and it’s so different from the generic horror things we are tired of.
The music at the moment they are watching the CCTV of the building they live in is amazingly eerie and sometimes even uncomfortable. I love uncomfortable music like you’ll see in the review after this one.
The story is where the movie lost a little bit, is just a typical horror story involving vengeful spirits. Someone died and felt disrespected or something like that, so the spirit is unable to move on and starts messing with the lives of those who wronged her/him.
Another very annoying but unfortunately very usual trait of horror movies is how the spirits never give in. They are absurdly stubborn, the sacrifice and suffering of the people being haunted are never enough.
Many times I thought the movie was about to end, that Ib’s ghost was already pleased. She could have decided “Well, they suffered enough, I think they learned the lesson”, but no, she kept going.
Even though the story is not a strong point of the movie, the execution and the acting captivate me enough to give 8 Moons.