A sleazy thriller about a serial killer who slaughters sex tourists, “Slice” is a notch above the average Thai slasher pic, but has trouble cutting through its knotty yarn. Offering queasy delights for gore hounds and an initially suspenseful atmosphere, the story runs off its circuitous rails before getting back on track with a genuinely surprising twist. Despite an apparent stance to the contrary, pic’s homophobic elements will make Western remake an iffy proposition. “Slice” opened to lackluster Thai B.O. but positive critical response in October, and will be popular with genre fests abroad.
Grindhouse helmer-scripter Kongkiat Komesiri (“The Art of the Devil” sequels) adapted “Slice” from a story by Wisit Sasanatieng (writer-director of “Tears of the Black Tiger”), with whom he collaborated on the 2006 gothic horror pic “The Unseeable.”
After an unsettling opening shot of a red suitcase floating in the ocean, a similar suitcase is delivered to a man’s hotel room. Before the man can use a young boy to fulfill his desires, a red-cowled figure intervenes, murdering the would-be perp before adding a shocking finishing touch.
Corrupt cop Lt. Chin (Chatchai Plengpanich, in an absurd white wig that brings Jim Jarmusch to mind) is baffled by the string of murders. Chin turns to imprisoned ex-cop Tai (Arak Amornsupasiri), who acts as Chin’s undercover assassin as penance for a police hit gone wrong years before. Plagued by red-suitcase nightmares, Tai suspects a childhood friend may be connected to the crimes and negotiates with Chin for 15 days’ freedom to unravel the mystery.
Heading back to his home village near Thai resort Pattaya, Tai finds that the further he digs, the more his suppressed childhood memories — involving the persecution of an effeminate boy — come to the surface. Dwelling far too long on the flashbacks, the yarn begins to chase its tail and labor its points about bullying, and it takes far too much delight in scenes of abuse to make its ostensible anti-homophobic stance seem anything but disingenuous. Inventive finale delivers a convincing wallop, but the film would still benefit from a hefty trim.
Komesiri’s helming varies from pedestrian to stylishly proficient, even cribbing the circular pan from Kenji Mizoguchi’s famous “Ugetsu” at one point. Lensing (handled by Komesiri and Thanachat Boonlah) capitalizes on bloody and lurid story elements to create a sleazoid atmosphere.
Amornsupasiri gives a strong perf as the ex-cop investigating murders as well as his own past. All other perfs meet Thai horror standards, as do the rough but typical tech credits.
Pic garnered several noms including best film at the Subhanahongsa Awards, Thailand’s film kudos, which at press time had been postponed due to political unrest.