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The Promise (Movie Review)

The Promise (Movie Review)
09.19.2017by: Jake Dee
8 10

PLOT: In 1997, best friends Ib and Boum vow to commit suicide together after their families are hit by the economic downturn in Thailand. Reneging at the last minute, Boum watches her best friend kill herself. 20 years later, Ib’s vengeful ghost is back to collect The Promise!

REVIEW: In Thailand, spirits of the afterlife are taken as a very serious thing. Mini shrines erected everywhere around the country are meant to ward off such, a ritual that’s persisted for decades. Knowing this full well, writer/director Sophon Sakdaphisit (SHUTTER, PHOBIA) has mounted a genuinely chilling ghost story with the dramatic heft to honor said phenomena in his new film THE PROMISE, which opens across Asia in the immediate weeks to come. Whether or not the film finds distribution beyond its native continent is beside the point, because this is a worthily crafted horror flick no matter where you find it. With a compelling story that takes its time to honestly emote on behalf of its characters, impressively credible acting by mostly tyros, slick and sure-handed direction and a few truly hair-raising moments of dreadful unease, by all means keep yours lids peeled for THE PROMISE in the near future. I mean it!

1997 Bangkok. A very real historical context is painted regarding mass suicides among investors going bankrupt during the country’s dire economic downfall. We meet 15 year olds Boum and Ib, inseparable besties whose fathers both fell victim to the financial crisis. Seeing their lifestyles fall from affluent to squalid, Boum and Ib can’t see any reason to live much longer. So they vow to commit suicide together. They climb up to the renovated tower of a riverside high-rise, one owned by Ib’s father, and proceed to do the deed. Only thing is, after seeing Ib end her own life, Boum gets cold feet. She reneges on her promise and runs away sobbing. Cut to 2017, Boum now a successful business women of her own, and a mother to boot. Her daughter Bell is set to celebrate her own 15th birthday in just a few days. Not so happily though, as ghastly and ghostly occurrences begin to take place around the house.

Indeed, Ib’s vengeful recompense isn’t just aimed at Boum, but specifically her soon to be 15 year old daughter Bell as well. The begrudging ghost infiltrates the girl’s iPhone, the house security feed, and even besets Bell with a case of increasingly sinister somnambulance. The doctors dose the poor kid with a bevy of meds, a nice jab at the culture of over-prescription, but she continues to sleepwalk and deliriously brush up with death in all its deleterious modes. It ultimately becomes up to Boum to find a way to not only save her only daughter, but to somehow allay the malefic motive of her childhood friend’s avenging spirit.

What works so well in THE PROMISE is the deftly tuned, less-is-more approach by Sakdaphisit, and the convincing turns from the two main actors who engage with the pissed off poltergeist. We honestly never even see the ghost (save for two glancing background shots near the end), yet trough the acting and directing, we wholeheartedly buy the action that transpires. Truly, there are three or four goose-bump inducing set-pieces in the film that more than atone for an equal amount of cheap and tacky jump scares. How these guys are able to make us believe there is a sinister spirit in the room without seeing a single phantom is nothing short of brilliant. But again, it’s the pure pathos lent here that allows us to genuinely care for Boum and Bell. At 114 minutes, adequate time is given in the early going to mount a sense of severe sympathy for these characters, deeply and dramatically so, which gives the payoff in the end the right amount of weight needed for maximum impact. There’s a reason why the film is codified as a Drama/Horror/Thriller on its IMBD page, and I wish more horror films took the time to emphasize the former.

THE PROMISE from me, to you, is this a movie worth seeing. It does almost everything right. The story is well written, the direction is sturdily engaging, the acting is credibly captivating, the drama is deeply emotive, and despite a few ineffective jump scares, the horrific outbursts are truly chilling. Find this movie if and when you can!

Extra Tidbit: The Promise is still awaiting a US release. Stay tuned for news as it comes!
Source: AITH

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