Monday, May 21, 2018

Tanha Nam Man Phrai (1990)

... aka: ตัณหาน้ำมันพราย
... aka: Craving for Corpse Oil
... aka: Lustful Charm Oil
... aka: Lust of Corpse Oil
... aka: Tạṇh̄ā n̂ảmạnphrāy
... aka: Tanha Nammanphrai

Directed by:
Unknown (Kamanita ?)

Wealthy, arrogant businessman Teera (Tanit Pongmanoon) is cheating on his wife and is so into his pretty mistress Pim that he gives her an envelope filled with money to find them a fancy new apartment to use as their very own love nest. Still, Pim is hot-tempered and the more demanding she gets the more Teera tries to keep a little distance. Hence, why he's not quite ready to give up his married life. Back home, his wife Nit (Pimphilai Chaiyo) spends her evenings waiting for her husband to return only to hear the obligatory bullshit businessman excuse of having to work late to explain away his arriving home at all hours of the night. Teera finally comes clean about his mistress but more or less tells the wife she's just going to have to deal with it. Nit finds the apartment Teera is paying for and goes there to confront Pim. The two women argue and Pim slaps her in the face, but the fight is broken up by Pim's much more subdued sister, Wan. Now at a loss as to what to do, Nit confides her troubles to her maid Pliu, who recommends they go consult a powerful black magician she'd previously had dealings with.

The magician, Sanae (Somsak Chaisongkram), knows what he's doing but he's also something of a sleazebag who'll take sex in lieu of money if a customer can't afford his services. Thankfully, Nit can, so she pays him for a special potion that should keep her husband from straying. She and her trusty maid slip it in Teera's juice and it seems to do the trick. As he's on his way to visit Pim, the potion kicks in, he turns right around, goes back to his wife and has passionate sex with her. Furious about being stood up, Pim finds out through a couple of shady male acquaintances about a female magician named Mae No who can also cast love spells. They go to her home, where she gives them an eyeless statue and instructs them to hide it somewhere on Teera's property. The two guys hop the gate and bury it in his yard.

The statue blows up and unleashes an invisible little boy imp dressed like a genie. He enters the home and Teera suddenly becomes vicious to Nit; slapping her and then heading right out the door to go see Pim. As long as the genie boy lurks in the home, her husband won't be back. Nit and Pliu return to Sanae and get their own idol. Once Nit prays to it, it shoots lasers and creates another imp boy who's slightly bigger than Pim's and manages to punch out and banish the other imp from Nit's property. Teera then returns home. As it's an ingredient necessary for an even stronger spell, both magicians conduct a ritual to resurrect a shrouded corpse which they then extract oil from using a candle. The back-and-forth magic spells continue until Mae No and Sanae find themselves at war with one another. Things spiral out of control from there.

For the first hour and 15 minutes we're treated to mostly melodrama, bickering, jealousy, mental breakdowns, lying, eavesdropping and backstabbing. And the plot itself isn't the only thing that's pure soap opera; so is the camera work. You know that shot every soap utilizes to include two people, where one is slightly behind the other's shoulder listening and reacting to the emoting / nefarious plans of the one in front? And then the one in front turns their head to the side to address the person in back then flip their head around to face the camera so they can make sneaky faces? That is basically every other shot of this movie.

After being pummeled with domestic drama, we finally get a sustain run of horror during the last 10 minutes, though it's not much. One of the imp kids shoots one of the shrouded corpses with a laser, rice is used as a weapon and much of the supporting cast gets strangled, slashed and stabbed. The philanderer has both of his arms ripped off (a very fitting end!) while the rival women both end up possessed. The plot is pretty reminiscent of those Shaw Brothers Black Magic movies from the 70s, only stripped of the action, production values, weird special effects, creativity and overall zaniness. In other words, stripped of pretty much everything that made those movies stand out.

This does offer up bare breasts during three soft-core sex scenes accompanied by soft jazz. During one of those between the maid and black magician, what sounds like an instrumental version of "What a Wonderful World" plays (!?) The opening credits use stolen music from the third Nightmare on Elm Street movie while the score from the fifth Friday the 13th movie is also pilfered.

Like about 99% of Thai horror films made before 1990, this was never released in America and is not currently available in English. Considering how talky it is, if you don't speak Thai, you'll probably just want to give it a pass. I'm not even entirely sure what to call this as there's no English title for it. Typing the original Thai title into the not-so-trusty translator brings back one word: Lustful. All of those symbols just for "lustful?" Actually, no. That's when we need to look at the other translation, Tạṇh̄ā n̂ảmạnphrāy. OK, so we have two words here? Again, nope. Putting a space between two of the symbols through another translator brought back "Lust Oracle," which I thought was a cool title and settled with for the time being. But then I poked around some more and discovered that title is probably also inaccurate.

Tạṇh̄ā, it turns out, is an important concept in Buddhism that refers to a craving / desire, either for existence, non-existence or sensual pleasure. Moving on to n̂ảmạnphrāy, I broke that up and ended up with Nam Man Prai, which is a special charm oil used in black magic that's obtained by using a candle to light the flesh of a corpse. Ding ding. We have a winner. That's exactly what happens here. But then we run into the issue of how to word this in English. Do we call it, "Craving for Corpse Oil?" Well, no one really craves corpse oil as it actually causes the craving. How about "Nam Man Prai Desire?" Well, that's... awkward. So we're just going to run with "lust" and "corpse oil" and call this "Lust of Corpse Oil" for the time being until my new multilingual Thai BFF stops by to help us out here.

1/2 (as is) ★★ (if the dialogue is fun and bitchy)
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