4Bia (2008)

Director:  Thongkonthun, Pisanthanakun, Wongpoom, Purikitpanya
Plot:  Four separate horror films revolving around the theme of fear.

Genre:  Horror

Awards:  -
Runtime:  120min
Rating:  NC16 for disturbing scenes.

Directed by four different Thai filmmakers, the separate films are pieced together to form two hours of uninterrupted scares and chills.  This 'movies-in-a-movie' concept is fresh for the horror genre, even though it has been used in others such as romance (Paris, Je T'aime) and comedy drama (To Each His Cinema). While 4Bia will be raved for its indifferent approach to filmmaking, it is not necessary a great horror film. 

The first film, 'Happiness', deals with themes of loneliness and vulnerability.  Taking a reel out of Hitchcock's classic mystery-thriller Rear Window (1954), 'Happiness' shows a young woman with an injured leg in a cast, confining herself in her room with only a computer and a mobile-phone.  Someone starts to text her to make friends.  That's when things begin to get real spooky.  'Happiness' is built on mood and psychological terror rather than horror.  The film is excellently-shot with the clever use of light and shadow.  It is, without a doubt, the best of the four shorts. 

The second film, 'Tit for Tat', is an embarrassment to the genre.  It is clearly the worst by a mile.  It deals with curses and black magic and how they affect a group of student drug addicts. 'Tit for Tat' is definitely not a horror film.  There's nothing frightening to savor as it is a by-product of the torture porn trend that started with films such as Hostel and Saw.  Its hyper-kinetic style with quick cuts and shaky camerawork will irritate viewers badly.  This technique does not work well especially when the screenplay is already so weak.  Worse still, there is too much CGI-violence and gore which amplifies the hollowness of the story. 

The third film, 'In the Middle', dwells on the clich├ęs of horror films, though they are used understatedly to hilarious effect.  Part comedy-part horror, 'In the Middle' features four guys on a jungle camping trip.  They would tell each other of ghostly encounters at night for entertainment.  When one of them drowns during a rafting activity, they start to eat their own words.  There are a couple of good scares, though the film feels more eerie than horrifying.  'In the Middle' is the most enjoyable and appealing of the quartet.  It can be both outrageously funny and chilling at the same time. 

The last short, 'Last Fright', provides solid scares and a well-developed plot.  It tells the tale of a two-timing air stewardess who serves a royal princess aboard a plane.  When the latter suffers from alleged food poisoning and dies, the former is made to fly solo with the corpse back to the princess' homeland for burial.  While the conclusion is predictable, 'Last Fright' manages to consistently create an ominous atmosphere throughout.  4Bia is not at the same level as Asian horror classics such as Ringu and Shutter.  If excluding the second short, 'Tit for Tat', 4Bia could have been one of the top horror draws of 2008.  Pity. 


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