Slice (Cheun) (2009)

Children are shits.
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Slice - Children are shits.

Children are shits, messed-up children become messed-up adults and adults are also shits. This is, in a nutshell, the message you can derive from Slice (Cheun), a Thai horror which despite my glib summation does a neat job of developing and balancing a tale of visceral gore with a plaintive back-story which ensures this is certainly not your average, torture-obsessed horror flick.

Slice still front-loads with the gory stuff though, establishing just how violent and just how unpleasant events at the heart of the plot are and revisiting this nastiness at key moments throughout the remainder of the film. A serial killer is on the loose in Thailand: a spate of murders has been linked to a figure clad in what looks like a snazzy red burqa, and body parts are turning up, Issei Sagawa-style, dumped in oversized suitcases, whilst revealing their sexual proclivities seems to be part of the modus operandi. At first all of this looks arbitrary, the work of a straight-up madman, but it seems that there may be a common link to the victims which have turned up so far, and key to understanding this is a current convict, a hitman named Tai (Arak Amornsupasiri). The police are at an impasse, but the detective on the case Papa Chin (Chatchai Plengpanich) decides to use Tai to help him solve it. Tai soon comes to suspect someone from his own past, and he has just fifteen days to track the suspect down, preventing any more deaths.

I've been pleasantly surprised by some of the horror films I've seen coming out of Thailand in recent years, and for all the world Slice reminded me of another nasty-but-oddly-humane Thai horror, Meat Grinder, which also starts off looking like ordeal horror but blossoms into something far more sophisticated, even moving. Slice has a similar tone and also a similar message. It could very easily have played out as a standard issue game of cat and mouse, a two-dimensional killer being hunted by another nasty piece of work, but it has far more ideas to play around with than that. To get to the exposition, the film takes its time and takes us back to Tai's childhood in rural Thailand. Not only does this add depth and motivation to the characters we grow to understand – showing us an unpalatable, mean state of existence riddled with bullying, violence, and abuse of all kinds, sexual, emotional and physical – but it illustrates a greater range of issues, mainly surrounding a changing Thailand. These are little boys who grow up to sell off the land where they once played, handing it over to unscrupulous Westerners who want to use it to build modern tourist resorts (Westerners may only have a peripheral role in this film but to a man, we're represented as greedy, exploitative arseholes, probably entirely fairly from the point-of-view of many Thai people). The world in which Tai and his friends grew up is in flux, and both then and now people are made to suffer horribly. I don't know what, if anything I expected from Slice, but the sadness in it genuinely surprised me, and the friendship which is brought to the fore in the plot is convincingly, touchingly depicted.

So, there's far more going on here than just violence, though even the violent scenes are put together with an almost painterly eye. This is an attractive looking film throughout, and it's very accomplished in its structure, holding onto its exposition successfully, at least to the point where I didn't spot the twist until it was right there, and I didn't feel cheated when it occurred, even though it pushes believability somewhat. Whether you like the exposition or not, though, one thing feels certain: there are no winners in this story. Slice is a bleak tale of actions and consequences which plays out to a fittingly tragic conclusion, and for people who enjoy visceral horror with a bit more emotional charge to it, this is a worthwhile movie.
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Categories: Asian Horror Movies

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