Ghosts, zombies and vehicles with long memories run amok in is superior T-horror anthology.

Ghosts, zombies and vehicles with long memories run amok in “Phobia 2,” a superior T-horror anthology with four out of five segments landing in the right scare spot. The biggest hit ever for production-distribution outfit GMM Tai Hub, the pic has scored more than $3 million in Bangkok alone since its Sept. 9 release. Almost certain to become the year’s top-earning Thai movie, this in-name-only sequel to 2008 hit “Phobia” (aka “4bia”) has strong regional prospects and should be snapped up by fest programmers with appropriate slots. Limited theatrical play outside Asia is possible; ancillary ought to go gangbusters.

Light on gore and paying close attention to character and suspense, the self-contained shorts have more in common with Amicus anthologies of the ’60s and ’70s than with contempo Asian splatterfests. Like many Amicus entries, “Phobia 2″ discreetly places a few of the same props in several episodes for keen-eyed fans to spot.

Atmospheric opener “Novice,” by Paween Purijitpanya, finds juvenile delinquent Pey (Jirayu Raongmanee) packed off by his exasperated mother for a spell as a trainee Buddhist monk. Pey’s bad behavior at the rural retreat coincides with the “Hungry Ghost” ritual, which involves the reawakening of a spirit and the damnation of a living soul. The “Sleepy Hollow”-like climax has the boy fleeing through a forest that comes alive in telling ways.

Visute Poolvoralaks’ “Ward” fails to deliver on a decent premise. Suffering a bad leg injury, young Arthit (Worrawech Danuwong) is placed in a hospital ward next to the dying leader of a religious cult (Gacha Plienwithi). A couple of dream sequences work OK, but the twist is pretty obvious.

The omnibus returns to form with “Backpackers.” Muscularly helmed by Songyos Sugmakanan (“Dorm”), the yarn opens with a young Japanese couple accepting a ride from a sleazy trucker (Suteerush Channukool) and his teenage sidekick (“Dorm” star Charlie Trairat, excellent). In a terrific midtale switcheroo, the yarn turns into a zombie thriller when the vehicle’s cargo is revealed. Ensuing bloodbath with super-fast, super-vicious reanimated corpses brings to mind “28 Days Later.”

Parental guilt and extremely tough punishment for dishonesty are served up in the gripping “Salvage,” by Parkpoom Wongpoom (“Alone,” “Shutter”). Thai-American singer-thesp Nicole Theriault wins the anthology’s acting prize as a used-car saleswoman whose shoddy vehicles exact a dreadful revenge.

Saving its best for last, “In the End” is a very funny “Scream”-like spoof of Thai horror moviemaking. “Alone” and “Shutter” co-helmer Banjong Pisanthanakun, here co-scripting with Mez Tharatorn, produces his best work yet with a story revolving around Kate (Phijitra Ratsameechawalit), an actress playing a ghost who turns out to actually be one. Local scream queen Marsha Vadhanapanich is a treat as herself, and there’s top-class goofery from Wiwat Krongrasri, Pongsatorn Jongwilas and Kantapat Permpoonpatcharasuk as panicked crew members.

Lensing is consistently excellent, with the spooky forest of “Novice” and color-desaturated images of tight spaces in “Salvage” standing out. All other technical work is of the highest order. Thai title translates as “Five Crossroads.”

Phobia 2

Thailand

Production

A GMM Tai Hub Co. release of a GMM Tai Hub Co. and Jorkwang Film production. (International sales: GMM Tai Hub, Bangkok.) Produced by Yongyooth Thongkongtoon, Chenchonnee Soonthornsaratul, Suvimon Techasupinun, Pran Tadaveerawat, Vanridee Pongsittisak. Executive producers, Paiboon Damrongchaitham, Boosaba Daoruang, Visute Poolvoralaks, Jina Osothslip. Reviewed at SF World Cinema, Bangkok, Sept. 29, 2009. Running time: 124 MIN.

Crew

Novice Directed by Paween Purijitpanya. Screenplay, Purijitpanya, Nitis Napichayasutin. Camera (color), Naruphol Chokanapitak; editor, Purijitpanya, Thammarat Sumetsupachok; music, Chartchai Pongprapaphan; production designers, Kanuang Dumkeaw, Komkrit Chuknam; sound (Dolby Digital), Sonthorn Nimsane. Ward Directed by Visute Poolvoralaks. Screenplay, Parkpoom Wongpoom, Sophon Sakdaphisit. Camera (color), Somboon Piriyapakdeekul, Jira Maligool; editor, Thammarat Sumetsupachok; music, Terdsak Chanpan; production designer, Komkrit Chuknam; sound (Dolby Digital), Sonthorn Nimsane. Backpackers Directed by Songyos Sugmakanan. Screenplay, Sugmakanan, Sopana Chaowwiwatkul. Camera (color) Niramorn Ross; editor, Thammarat Sumetsupachok; music, Terdsak Chanpan; production designer, Sutham Vilawandaj; sound (Dolby Digital), Sonthorn Nimsane. Salvage Directed by Parkpoom Wongpoom. Screenplay, Wongpoom, Sophon Sakdaphisit. Camera (color), Somboon Piriyapakdeekul, Jira Maligool, Paween Purijitpanya; editor, Thammarat Sumetsupachok; music, Terdsak Chanpan; production designer, Komkrit Chuknam; sound (Dolby Digital), Sonthorn Nimsane. In the End Directed by Banjong Pisanthanakun. Screenplay, Pisanthanakun, Mez Tharatorn, Chantavit Dhanasevi. Camera (color), Niramorn Ross; editor, Thammarat Sumetsupachok; music, Chartchai Pongprapaphan; production designer, Suras Kardeeroj; sound (Dolby Digital), Sonthorn Nimsane.

With

Novice With: Jirayu Raongmanee, Ray McDonald, Chumporn Theppitak, Apasiri Nithipon. Ward With: Worrawech Danuwong, Gacha Plienwithi. Backpackers With: Charlie Trairat, Suteerush Channukool, Akiko Ozeki, Theeraneth Yuki Tanaka, Danaipat Labipat. Salvage With: Nicole Theriault, Peeratchai Roompol. In the End With: Phijitra Ratsameechawalit, Marsha Vadhanapanich, Nuttapong Chartpong, Wiwat Krongrasri, Pongsatorn Jongwilas, Kantapat Permpoonpatcharasuk. (Thai, Japanese, English dialogue)

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