The Cadaver

Dir: Dhulayasit Niyomkul
Year: 2006
Production Company: Sahamongkol Film
Running Time: Approx. 90 minutes

How about this for a quick review - “The Cadaver” is dead on arrival. Sure that is cheap and obvious like a two-dollar cigar, but unfortunately fairly accurate. Or maybe “The Cadaver” begins with some mild promise but rigor mortis soon sets in for good. Or “The Cadaver” is a lifeless and bloodless bloated mess. Ok – so none of those pithy comments are likely to end up being used as blurbs in the ads or in the film reviewer’s hall of fame but it is hard not to go down that mundane route with this rather pointless and tedious horror film. It often feels like much of the output in Thailand these days is in the horror genre and clearly most of their international exposure comes from that direction with recent offerings such as “Shutter” and “Art of the Devil 2” – but the vast majority of it is very derivative and of straight to video quality. “The Cadaver” probably should have been a straight to video production, but as it is produced by Thailand’s most prestigious film company, Sahamongkol, it fought its way into the theaters due to their industry clout. The production values are fairly low, the actors are ineffective and the script feels like a patchwork job that becomes more and more muddled as it goes along.

Somewhere in this glutinous mess was the kernel of a good idea but somehow in the process the filmmakers got lazy and strayed into TV like banality. Mai (Natthamonkarn Srinikornchot) is a medical student and this year it’s time to dissect a cadaver. Along with her schoolmates and friends she gets assigned her very own corpse to work with. It begins interestingly as the students give this lifeless form their blessings and prayers and the head lecturer tells them that the body they will be working on made this their last wish – a final atonement and merit in their lives. One student mentions that as long as they had their hands tied and a service performed their souls have left their bodies – but of course a person who didn’t volunteer to be dissected after death would still have their soul enclosed and an angry soul it might be. No doubt if this had been a Hollywood production, the conversation would have consisted of bodily function and necrophilia banter and so this Thai approach was welcome.

As Mai comes into contact with her cadaver she begins to have horrible nightmares and thinks she sees the body moving. Of course, everyone believes that she is just spooked and imagining the entire thing, but she begins to investigate the background of this cadaver and discovers that she was a young student as well who simply disappeared one day. At this point the film begins to disintegrate into a tiresome mess as the body ties into something that Mai was involved in previously with her professor (Nirut Sirichanya) and it quickly loses any tension and goodwill that it had engendered till then. It’s a shame because there are few things that creep me out more than cadavers, dissection and morgues, but this film leaves all that morbid atmosphere behind as it becomes a murder mystery of sorts. Also, left behind in the plot are the friends and other parts that in the first half of the film one assumed would be important – such as the mysterious upstairs neighbor Noi who ends up playing no discernable part.

It really feels as if someone wrote the first section but had to move on to another project and handed the script over to someone else who just wanted to finish it as quickly as possible and didn’t worry about where the film seemed to be heading. Most of the few scares are your basic jolting noises and sudden movement scenes with no gore what so ever. The cinematographer seemed to think that as long as the scenes were dark they would be scary and so nearly the entire film is shot in murky gloom and all I wanted to do was shout for someone to please turn on the lights. I mean if I thought I was being haunted by a ghost I would have every light in the house on but Mai prefers keeping it dark – or maybe she was just being energy conscious! There is just nothing here to recommend this one.

My rating for this film: 5.0