Six months after their son was killed in a tsunami, Janet and Paul (Beart and Sewell) are still living in Phuket nursing their grief. But Janet is convinced that he must be alive and living up-river in Burma, so convinces Paul to fund a desperate expedition. Their first guide (Pankratok) is a bit of a crook, but they soon link with Thaksin (Osthanugrah) and another expat, Kim (Dreyfus). And the further they venture into this strange region, the more bizarre things get.
The title refers to spirits that are trapped between life and death, and this is clearly a reference to Janet and Paul themselves. Their offhanded bitterness is palpable, as is Janet's obsessive longing and Paul's patient yearning to help. And these emotions just get stronger as the story progresses. Soon Janet is a crazed nutcase, dragging them into increasingly dangerous territory.
Frankly, we just wish Paul would leave her to her inner demons. Because we know it can't end well.
Filmmaker Du Welz has a lurid visual sensibility that captures the nightmarish aspects of the settings (and some of the beauty). This is dense and oppressive, but we go with it due to a glimmer of hope on the horizon. As it progresses, though, the parallels with Don't Look Now (parents dealing with grief over a child's death) and Apocalypse Now (voyage upriver into hell) give way to some seriously indulgent filmmaking. And once he abandons the emotional resonance of the premise, Du Welz and his cast are up the creek without a paddle.
Eventually it devolves into a nasty horror movie about a demonic army of jungle vampire children. And while it's deeply creepy and even stomach-churningly gruesome (which is a good thing in a horror film), it's also utterly vacuous without characters we have a connection to or a story with any logic. In the end, the only way to see this is as a symbolic journey into the tortured brains of grieving parents. But by the time we get there, we don't care.
Run time: 96 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 1st October 2008
Distributed by: Wild Bunch Distribution
Production compaines: The Film
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 56%
Fresh: 10 Rotten: 8
IMDB: 5.3 / 10
Director: Fabrice Du Welz
Producer: Fabrice Du Welz, Oliver Blackburn, David Greig
Screenwriter: Michael Gentile
Starring: Rufus Sewell as Paul Belhmer, Emmanuelle Béart as Janet Belhmer, Julie Dreyfus as Kim, Josse De Pauw as Matthias, Petch Osathanugrah as Thaksin Gao, Amporn Pankratok as Sonchaï, Omm as Sara, Apisit Opasaimlikit as Boomsong, Kurlab Lay as Boomsong's mom, Matt Ryder as Bideau, Bobbie Delcastillo as Millionnaire 1, Susan Delcastillo as Woman 1, Teerawat Mulvilai as Khun, Saichia Wongwirot as Petch, Kitinun Siangsa-Ard as Gao's bodyguard
Also starring: Emmanuelle Beart
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