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It's a Ghost Thing, You Wouldn't Understand – Review of 'The Screen at Kamchanod'

Ghosts in Thailand

Without giving away huge spoilers, the plot of The Screen at Kamchanod is like this: In 1987, four movie screeners were hired to show in a movie in the Kamchanod forest in Thailand. No one showed up to watch the strange film until near the end, when people came out of the forest and oddly walked up the screen. It's said that they disappeared.

There are a few standout scenes, such as one in a movie theater where ghosts begin to physically form around the seated characters. At one point, a character named Yuth is greeted by an old woman who asks him to die in her place. Then, for a moment, it seems he does. Does he, or does he not die? It's a creepy, old-school horror concept that merges psychological torment with ghost story, and appreciable even by those who don't like the movie much.

On that note, I'll admit it: The Screen at Kamchanod isn't the easiest film to describe. That may be part of its charm, however, as the scenes and the characters end up being rather cryptic. Frankly, it's not the sort of film you'll want to think about too much, as it's probably not supposed to make perfect sense. As a result, some people will like it, others won't. I personally liked the atmosphere throughout, and it has some decent ghosts and trippy concepts. The special effects and makeup designs are actually pretty good, even if none of the characters are particularly memorable.

In a way, that almost seems to be the intent of this film. It had sort of an amnesia effect on my mind. I had a hard time remembering any of the character's names, and not just because they're from Thailand and I'm not. No, it seems that they're interchangeable, just like the ghosts are interchangeable between this world and whatever spectral realm they come from. Sure, you have specific plot elements among the detectably living characters. For some drama, we learn that the guy named Yuth abuses his wife, Orn, and another guy named Roj is in danger for loving her. Still, that's almost an aside, or just another layer of complexity in a puzzle intended to remain unsolved.

This hints at why many won't like this movie. In this day and age, I think audiences in general want things pretty well spelled out. Not only is there a lack of suspension of belief, but people often don't like the unexplainable, regarding it as nothing but a story gimmick. If anything's too confusing, too layered, too lofty, they'll usually hate it. And don't get me wrong, I am not immune to that feeling, either. In fact, some films do perplexing mystery better than others. Here, though, I think it combines with the ghosts and horror to create something a little deeper, and a little better.

It's a bit like staring into a painting. You can attribute whatever meaning and emotion to it that you want, based on your own reaction. That's what I did with the scares and well-designed ghosts in The Screen at Kamchanod.  In that respect, this movie's a bit David Lynch-ian, albeit less heavy on the semi-humorous absurdism which permeates even his darkest works. It's a more straightforward, ghost-centered mystery, which could frustrate those who seek normalcy and cohesion in their horror.

This film sort of requires work on behalf of the viewer, even without pondering the mysterious, incongruous aspects. You sort of need a wide open mindset, to be prepared for whatever will occur before you. If you're totally unlike me and can't do this at all, then The Screen at Kamchanod won't be for you. I recommend you don't try to like this movie. Don't try to hate it, either. Similarly, don't try much to understand it, but don't reject the possibility of understanding it. To the extent possible, put aside your worldly prejudices and regard this film as a fresh experience. This way you will see the ghosts meld together with the characters in the story, without being too puzzled and frustrated by trying to lace all the strands together.  

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It's a Ghost Thing, You Wouldn't Understand – Review of 'The Screen at Kamchanod'
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