303 FEAR FAITH REVENGE
Director: Somching Srisupap
Year of release: 1999
Country of origin: Thailand
Running time: 90 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: DVD only
Tagline: "Conquer the fear, Keep the faith, Kill the revenge" and "One' s touch, One' s smart together they unleash explosive action". (Translation didn't come out very well in that last one I guess)
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: 303 is a rare Thailand supernatural slasher set in 1960 that follows a student named Ghu who has just started attending a prestigious catholic boarding school called St Georges. Poorer than his piers and supported by a scholarship funded by the church Ghu overcomes this and manages to make friends with the boys sharing his dorm quickly. Ghu and his new friends become fascinated with the case of a former honor student from the school some eight years ago who in 1952 reportedly shot himself. The friends dedicate themselves to finding out more about this boy known as Prince Daovadueng as they are intrigued as the school staff all seem to clam up when the name is mentioned. Convinced something significant is being hidden and concealed regarding the boys death the group hold a seance using a Ouija board to attempt to make contact with Daovadueng's spirit to try and find out the real story. They manage to contact the desired spirit who informs them that he was murdered. As a bad storm begins to rage over the next few days and the isolated St Georges becomes cut off it becomes apparent that during the seance the boys have unwillingly invited the evil that killed Daovadueng back into the present day St Georges.
Good points: The setting of the St Georges catholic boarding school looks nice visually with some impressive looking buildings and architecture helped along by strong cinematography. The religious undertones with priests seen around campus coupled with the look of the place and also with it being set in the past all add up to a decent atmosphere. It is also an all boys school so as such the cast is predominantly male which helps set it apart and give it a bit more of its own identity. There are only two females in fact of any note in the entire film, Numkang the headmasters daughter who plays quite a significant role and a more minor science teacher character.
Although I didn't think the deaths were anything to write home about there is a lot of variety in them at least in the early stages of the murders. Later on it is mainly a gun that is used but before that we see several different methods of execution among them electrocution and an impaling by axe. The final death involving someone receiving their comeuppance is very well done as well I thought as I liked how they used something as a weapon that we had seen at several points throughout the film as kind of a school landmark.
This is a bit disappointing in that the killer doesn't have any kind of costume/mask but they do manage the supernatural elements in the murders pretty well with one or two face morphing moments being very creepy. It is quite simple to guess who is behind it all but before the killer is properly revealed about halfway through there is some fun to be had in narrowing down the potential suspects as well.
The seance scene is well shot and put together and I would say was easily one of the more stylish seance scenes I've seen in these type of movies.
Bad Points: I thought the film initially looked really good and to be fair it does retain a certain visual style throughout which many may appreciate but about half way through once the storm kicked in and most of the kills started up I thought it looked too dark. A lot of the time for example the blood looked black and not red due to how dingy and dark it was.
I felt it was a bit unrealistic how Ghu and his cronies became so interested in the Prince Daovadueng character to the point of actually forming an official investigation club to dig into his story. Maybe one or two of them would be that interested but there were about five of them in the club! Maybe they just got really board with there being no girls around but it didn't sit well with me. It would have been more believable if it had only recently become an all boys school and the Daovadueng character was a beautiful former female student as at least then it would have been a bit more understandable as to why they found it all so interesting.
Spoiler warning for this point. When we find out about the killer of Daovadueng from 1952 I don't think enough is done to inform us about this killers back story which led to him snapping and going on the shooting spree. I understand he was bullied for being fat and unattractive but the bullying we saw was so brief we barely saw anything of it at all. There was something about snakes being put around his feet at one point it looked like but it was glossed over so quickly it wasn't clear what they were trying to say. The film would have worked better had they dedicated at least a few minutes to this I think instead of the super quick rush job we ended up with. Also it seemed as if one of the priests blamed himself for the whole business but they didn't explain properly why. Maybe one explanation could be that the kid had gone to him for help and he had not taken things seriously and just fobbed him off but again this should have been explained a lot more clearly. I shouldn't have to write their own story for them!
Probably the biggest issue I had with the film was that most of the characters felt interchangeable with none of the boys for me really standing out at all. I found it very difficult to establish who was who with no one being memorable Ghu included I thought Ghu might be looked down on for being poorer than the rest which would have helped distinguish him but he wasn't so I don't know why they even bothered making mention of his lower class background. This problem was compounded with it being an all boys school of course so all the kids (Numkang aside) were male, they also all had dark hair and one of two similar hairstyles. These were possibly school haircuts as St Georges was very strict on dress code and looks. So again with that they were always in uniform so that didn't help either. With it being a foreign film the subtitles probably didn't help as well as of course you are trying to read each one before it disappears so you don't always catch which character spoke which line if they are of the same sex. The subtitles themselves though were okay, not perfect but not really poorly translated either.
Verdict: All in all not a very pleasurable viewing experience as the issues with it being hard to differentiate the characters made it tough to follow exactly what was going on at times though I more than got the gist of it. There were a handful of occasions as well where I wasn't sure if a character had actually died or not or a body was seen but I didn't know who it was so again this added to the uncertainty. It wasn't entirely bad news as there were a few saving graces or things that helped set it apart at least but I can't speak highly of this film generally. It was a bit boring I thought as well as being slightly difficult to follow so I won't be in any kind of hurry to rewatch it. That said it does have a certain style and panache about bit so I could see many horror fans liking this and thinking I'm being way too harsh with my score.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1) Trai: Falls from height.
2) Tee: Electrocuted in the shower.
3) Joe: Axe thrown through stomach.
4) I think one of the elders (possibly Waeng) may have been killed by a falling tree in the thunderstorm next but it wasn't very clear.
5) Boy in bed: Throat cut with knife.
6) Boy: Seen hanging, neck presumably broken.
7) Female teacher: Shot with shotgun. Just prior to her death she discovered a body. I wasn't sure who this was supposed to be. Possibly it was Joe or if not then maybe another random boy killed around the same time as numbers 5 and 6.
8), 9), 10) and 11): Four students shot at the same time in the woods with a shotgun.
12) Mr Choo: Shot and later dies in hospital.
13) Father Theodore: It was mentioned that he died at the end though I'm not sure how. Possibly had a heart attack when having a vision of the past.
14) SihnSamut: Impaled on school statue spear.