Ghost of Mae Nak Reviews
Her story is a tragic one of course, why else would she be a ghost. She fell in love with a young man named Maak. They were married and were living happily until Maak was called up for military service. This was because the Kingdom was involved in fighting one of their neighbors, though the legend doesn't really say. Before he left Nak became pregnant, though Maak didn't know this. While Maak was away Nak went into labor, but died along with her child and was buried by the villagers. Maak was seriously wounded during the fighting and was away longer than he thought he would be while healing. When he returned home he found his beautiful wife and newborn child greeting him.
He lived happily again with his wife, but started noticing that people would avoid their home. People who were once their friends and neighbors would never go near them. A few braver villagers went to tell Maak that his wife had died while giving birth when he was away at war. Of course Maak didn't believe them because his wife was right there at home. They told him she was a ghost, as was the child and warned him he better leave. These same villagers would turn up dead, as the ghost of Mae Nak would become furious at them for getting in between her and Maak. When Maak figures out that the dead villages were right and that Nak is responsible for killing them, he of course runs. This drives Nak well over the egde, as much as a ghost can I guess.
Eventually, though different accounts tell of different events, there was an exorcism that captured Mae Nak and kept her from terrorizing the village. She only stopped as she was promised to be reunited with her dear Maak in another life. During the exorcism, the head monk removed her corpses forehead, thus providing a path for her soul to depart the body. This bit of bone was made into an amulet that is lost to history. Thus the legend of Nak's undying love is born. Thais called her from then on Mae Nak, or Mother Nak. Sometimes she is referred to as Nang Nak, or Lady Nak.
Her shrine, which is where she is supposed to be buried, is filled with offerings like food, drinks and toys for her child. There are dresses for her to wear and paintings done to capture her beauty. There is also a statue of her and her child covered in gold leaf and dressed up, for the visitors to pay their respects to. People leave all manner of objects, like coke for her to drink, diapers for her child, and they always have a TV playing in her room, so she never gets bored. It is said she favors young lovers, and hates the military draft. This explains all the young men who have been called up to serve that come to her and ask her for help get them out of it.
For Thai people there is no strong separation between the living and the dead. The dead are there, moving around the living, it is just a matter of the living noticing them or not. Mae Nak is held in high regard because she was a powerful spiritual person. Her love for her husband and her will to stay with him was so strong that she could manifest convincingly for her husband, as a flesh and blood woman. She could commit murder even. Since she has this power to effect the world of living so much, people feel the need to keep her happy. They might ask a favor as well, because if she can kill people as a ghost, she must be capable of other things, right?
As I stated earlier her story has been told many times. My wife recalled for me a version that was popular when she was a child. She watched a TV show about Mae Nak with her grandmother that scared her silly. Several movies have been done about her as well. One of the more internationally know was Nang Nak, which was done back in 1999. This version was well funded and was a selection of the Rotterdam Bangkok Film Festival and included a well know cast, especially the beautiful Intira Jaroenpura as Mae Nak.
Unfortunately, the movie I got to see recently was not Nang Nak. What I watched was The Ghost of Mae Nak, which was directed by British director Mark Duffield. This movie didn't deal with the legend of Mae Nak, but told a story about her return as a ghost, after being exorcised. In this film a young couple named Maak and Nak, already the pathetic attempts at plot building start, get married and buy the house that used to belong to Mae Nak. Mae Nak, thinking this young Maak is her Maak returned to her, begins to haunt the couple. Maak buys a protecive amulet because of nightmares that Mae Nak is giving him, which just happens to be the bone amulet made from her forehead. Mae Nak is protective of Maak but jealous of Nak. So this means she helps the couple only when Maak will somehow be harmed. People who try to harm Maak in some way are killed off. Eventually Mae Nak tries to replace Nak, even though Nak is doing everything she can to put Mae Nak's ghost to rest. Nak's motivation to help Mae Nak is to convince her to let Maak come up of the coma she has put him in.
The whole movie was horrible. I do not normally like horror films, because I don't like being scared. There is enough in this world to be scared about that I don't need it in my entertainment. Plus, I scare easy, real easy. I have a very active imagination that keeps working well after the movie is over, so horror movies stay with. As for slasher films, well, I don't like violence for violence sake. I think there is something wrong with enjoying story-less violence. Those types of movies end up being nothing but torture films, as far as I am concerned. I convinced myself to watch this as it was a ghost story, more than a horror film, per se, and it was based on a cultural icon of Thailand. The Ghost of Mae Nak did not scare me. Some horror films are so bad that they are funny, like Evil Dead or Gremlins. The Ghost of Mae Nak so bad it wasn't even funny. My wife and I couldn't even make fun it and enjoy it that way. As far as learning about Mae Nak in popular Thai culture is concerned, this movie failed that as well. In the end the whole film is a failure on many different levels.
Normally I name the actors, just in case someone would want to learn more about them, but since I don't believe one person in this film is a professorial actor I am not wasting my time. Only few minutes into the film and I thought this was a school film project and Mark just got a bunch of his best friends to star in it. The lead playing Maak can't even fake being drunk, but stammers out his lines. The effects were despicable. One scene was a man's head being taken off by a passing train and then flying through the air. It looked more like a bad cartoon from the late seventies, rather than a horrific murder committed by a ghostly woman. The 'terrorizing' face of wrath that Mae Nak makes at people was just a childish animation over the actresses face. The best actor in the film was the actress playing Mae Nak, and that was because all she said was Maak's name. Most of the time she just stood there, she was really good at that.
The only reason I decided to write this review in the first place was to discuss a little Thai culture and warn people about this film. Please, do not see it. I have two hours of my life I can not get back. Writing this review is the only way I can get something for my wasted time watching Duffield's film. There is a much longer list of Mae Nak inspired performances to see. I highly recommend finding one of those instead.
The B-movie style effects are on occasion quite good, but both the death scenes and the ghost's appearance fluctuate from effective to hilarious due to the very obvious and unrealistic CGI (to be honest, I think they could've had better success with prosthetics and models).
Personally I found most of the film quite boring - the first half seems mainly to be a chronicle of how this nice couple are being ripped off at every turn, and even the ghost killing the con artists off via elaborate set piece didn't revive my interest. My interest picked up again slightly towards the end, but all in all I don't feel that it was worth the effort despite the promise that is buried within it.
According to reviews, Nang Nak, a film of the original legend, is miles better. I imagine that anyone who loved that film would be disappointed with this.
It was a good movie. The couple was sickenly cute though. "Nak loves Mak." "Mak loves Nak." Puke-city! The ghost was pretty decent. It was your typical asian ghost: long black hair, white face, black mouth. Not too scary.
No real surprises in this flick. It was just a good waste of time. Rent it if you are into ghosts and moderately bored.