Thursday, September 20, 2007

Devil Species (2004)

Devil Species (2004) – equally unknown under its Thai name Phantugram ammahit – is a direct-to-and-on-video Thai "horror" film directed by Poom Opium. Probably the only thing that really separates Devil Species from the acknowledged masterpieces of surrealistically inept flotsam (such as the films of Ed Wood and Jess Franco or certain cinematic singular filmic mistakes like Fritz Böttger's Horror of Spider Island/Tote hing im Netz (1960)) is the patina of age, for this cinematic and narrative car wreck is so excruciatingly, hilariously and horrendously bad from the first scene to the last that you can only either laugh and enjoy its ineptitude or pull your hair out by the roots. One can't help but think the director lived up to his name (Opium) and was on drugs while making this thing, for no normal person with any taste or talent or common sense could make a film like Devil Species without being under the influence of something. Pull your friends together, rent a video camera, take some drugs, and buy some ketchup and you could probably make a film just like this one… 
But then, again, maybe not. This film defies description in its ineptitude, lacking anything that resembles good acting, professional direction or editing, decent costumes or effects, logical story line – in other words, the film is all that an Ed Wood film might have been if he were alive today and Thai. The plot is a riff on the classic plot of bad cinema ala The Alligator People (1959 / trailer) in which a serum goes wrong and suddenly a monster is on the loose. This time around, it's a killer snake on legs and wearing a lab coat that likes to splash buckets of ketchup on the wall. 
Actually, there are two monsters, sorta. The film opens with a bunch of Caucasian actors (none of whom seemingly normally speak English, for they sure have odd sentence structure and conjugation) who get decimated when one of their own turns all snakey, but this whole intro is more-or-less forgotten during the rest of the film (the killer snake-lady can be seen preserved in a tank in the background of a couple of scenes, but no explanation is given on how she got there). The next one to go snakey is an old doctor who then goes on a rampage in the lab building where they are producing snake serum. Usually he simply kills his victims, their blood splashing everywhere, but one victim inexplicably remains alive to become a loyal servant ala Renfield in Dracula (choose a year, choose a version) while another briefly becomes a vampiric-looking snake-woman of her own before being fed lead by the male hero.
The subtitles do wonders for the cinematic experience, adding a level of poetic surrealism to the inanity of the events. At any given time, some character is apt to say something as meaningful and deeply moving as the following: "Trust me, he is never mind"; "It smells very bad and hot"; "I feel something bad"; "It is full of blood stain"; "What is sound?"; "We should move away... you go left"; and "How long it follow me up to haunt no body know." Yes, it is poetry… I think.
Is it a good film? No fucking way. Did I enjoy watching it? You bet I did! Turds like this are the reason we sit through so many not-bad-enough films in the first place. It is a shame – but hardly surprising – that Mr. Opium has seemingly never made another movie… but then, even if he did, it seems highly unlikely that anyone could achieve this level of badness a second time around.

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