Original Title: เพื่อน.. ที่ระลึก
Director: Sophon Sakdaphisit
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Hello, there! I’m dos Santos, welcome to Ulven Reviews. Movies and series from all over the world and all eras.
Today’s review is of the Thai film The Promise, directed by Sophon Sakdaphisit and released in 2017. Two teenage girls make a pact of committing suicide together, but one didn’t carry it out, so the dead one returns as a vengeful spirit.
Just like in the previous review, I’ll probably struggle to pronounce the actresses’ names here. “Actresses” because I don’t remember any male actor I mentioned. Anyway, I tried my best, let’s get into it.
In the second half of the 90s, the teenagers Boum (played by Thunyaphat Pattarateerachaicharoen) and Ib (played by Panisara Rikulsurakan) are best friends. Both come from wealthy families and are used to their privileged lives.
Their fathers were partners in a business venture, building a tower. The penthouse of this tower became the favorite place for the girls to hang out. The building so far consisted of a full concrete frame structure and very little else.
When the 1997 crisis began, their parents go to financial ruin and have to halt the investment in the tower. Ib’s father becomes violent, while Boum’s father completely loses his mind, making the girls suffer immensely.
To end their adversity, the girls promise to commit suicide together at the top of the building. Ib steals her father’s revolver and is the first one to pull the trigger. When Boum sees her friend dying in front of her, she can’t go on with the plan and runs away from the building.
Twenty years later, Boum (played by Bee Namthip) seems to be a relatively successful woman, a widow raising her happy almost-fifteen-years-old daughter, Bell (played by Apichaya Thongkham).
However, after some failed endeavors, she is going through some financial difficulties and approaching bankruptcy. She sees the unfinished tower where Ib committed suicide as the salvation of her company.
While Boum is showing the construction site to the bankers to assure an investment, Bell explores the place and finds an old pager. That’s when their problems start.
In 1997 an economic crisis began in Thailand and later spread to other Asian countries, hitting each one at different degrees. In the movie, the situation is shown in a montage of news programs, talking about the technicalities and the effect in the life of the population.
This financial crisis, obviously, was the result of various factors, but there was one straw that broke the camel’s back. The Thai government decided to no longer peg the Thai baht to the American dollar, leading to a significant decrease in the currency’s value and later affecting other economies in the region. (Source)
So, what is pegging?! I suggest you don’t Google it broadly. But, when talking about the economy, it’s tying one currency to another, in this case, the Baht was tied to the Dollar.
With a little help from the International Monetary Fund (A.K.A. IMF), the East Asian economies began stabilizing, and by 1999 most of them were already showing signs of economic recovery.
We already talked about the IMF in the channel before, in the review of the Spanish-Slash-Argentine movie The Method. However, in that movie, the IMF was the villain. You can check this review in the Cards above.
The story of The Promise is its weakest point. It’s the typical horror story involving vengeful spirits. Someone died and felt disrespected, so the ghost is unable to move on and starts messing with the lives of those who wronged her/him/it.
Still related to this vengeful specter, an 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, and could have decided “Well, they suffered enough, I think they learned their lesson”, but no, she kept going.
Even though using the typical tropes of ghost films, the filmmakers managed to make it compelling by focusing on the interaction between Boum and Bell. This mother-daughter relationship is what drives the movie.
Apichaya Thongkham as Bell is excellent and impressed me a lot, her acting seemed natural and fluid. At first, she is a happy and active girl, exploring the building and taking pictures of everything. As things get worst, her acting also changes while keeping the quality.
Bee Namthip as Boum is marvelous. She really seemed a desperate mother trying to protect the daughter, and even reminded me of Essie Davis, in The Babadook, one of my favorite performances ever.
I have to give Bee Namthip all the credits in the world because her acting was incredible. I was hypnotized by her performance and the amount of emotion she transmitted.
The actress is a gorgeous, slender, tall woman, the typical model-attributes, and I was sure she was a model. I was right, she is an actress, model, and singer, according to the Almighty Wikipedia. Is this relevant?! Probably not, but I wanted to say she is multi-talented.
The cinematography is another exceptional aspect of the film, especially in the scenes involving the tower. The camera movement is fundamental in this movie because it gives suspense and some scares as well, but especially to put things in perspective.
Through the various camera angles and movements, we have a better notion of the locations’ height, and the danger it might offer. Also, the view of Bangkok from the top of the tower and even the exquisite architecture of the tower.
An example of all of these things is when Bell is exploring the tower. She reaches a balcony, then the camera slowly moves away from her and shows a view of the building from the top, the amusing architecture with signs of aging and plants growing. A very gorgeous shot.
The colors and lighting are also very pleasing, and even more so when the two are used in combination. The film has some shots with extreme colorful lights that intensify the drama of the scene. I loved it.
Another thing I loved was the score. At first, it’s just a very decent score, but later, in some tense moments, the music makes the scenes even more intense, and even disturbing. It’s one of the best horror movie scores I can remember hearing recently.
The score at the moment they are watching the CCTV of the building they live in is amazingly eerie, even reaching the uncomfortable level. I adore uncomfortable music, you’ll see how much in next week’s review.
The Promise has a typical, not very original, horror movie story, but its execution, the acting, and visuals captivate me enough, compensating the lack of originality. So, I’ll give it 8 Moons.
That’s it for now. Don’t forget to ask for support, especially professional, at any hint of suicidal thoughts. Bye!