There is no such thing as Asian horror. Even though there are plenty of common elements, each country has its own way of dealing with horror films, especially stylistically. 4bia is a new anthology project giving room to four Thai talents. The four stories are ever so slightly related, but stand well on their own and bring their own vision on what Thai horror has to add to the genre.
The first short is directed by Thongkonthun, a relatively fresh director with little experience in the horror genre. His short has a pretty conventional theme, being nothing more than a simple girl, ghost, haunt story. Still, the angle of the short is pretty special, as no actual dialog is being used. The girl is homebound and isolated from her friends and all conversations are held through sms contact. Not a first, as more and more films are trying to integrating digital communication, but still quite a novel experience.
Visually, the short is decent with several attractive shots, though the single setting does get a little boring after a while. We follow he girl in her room for the entire running time, only at the very end do we get some shots from outside. As a whole, the short is convincing enough and even though the story is extremely traditional, the execution makes it worthwhile. It's Thongkonthun's talent that keeps this film well away from falling into the boredom trap. 4*
Next up is a short from Shutter director Pisanthanakun. Shutter was a pretty big Asian horror hit, but what Pisanthanakun puts on display here is different and easily the most interesting short of the bunch. The short is shot entirely as if making a trailer, including color bleeds, short freeze frames, hectic cuts and speed fluctuations. A true visual feast, sadly more and more cheap CG creeps in, resulting in a rather horrible and amateurish climax.
For those familiar with the Art of the Devil series, the story will hold little surprises, though the revenge theme of the film has been given a nice swing. The style of the film makes it a little hard to follow, but the basics are clear enough and the short looks really impressive. With a little tweaking on the CG part this would've been perfect, luckily this is easily forgotten when considering the rest of the film. 4.5*
Third short is made by Wongpoom, co-director of Shutter. Again someone with some solid experience in the field of horror. And it shows. A completely different short than Pisanthanakun's, Wongpoom's film draws more to the likes of Craven's Scream trilogy. Four guys go rafting together, but when they all end up in the water things take a turn for the worse.
The atmosphere in this film is pretty relaxed, with little to no scares or creeps. To compensate, there's a thin layer of humor running underneath everything that happens, with a rather amusing (but possible frustrating) running gag spoiling the ending of at least three popular horror films (The Sixth Sense, The Others and Shutter), even throwing in Titanic for good measure. There are some genuinely funny moments, though I assume it's not as fun if you haven't seen the mentioned films yet. Visually a little underdeveloped, but since the focus lies on the humor that's easily ignored. 4*
Sadly, the final short is the least interesting of the bunch. Even though none of the shorts bring something new to the table story-wise, they all have some interesting points of execution. Purikitpanya is the only one delivering a pretty standard horror fare, with a dead body haunting a stewardess on her flight home.
Purikitpanya shows a keen eye for composition from time to time, and the introduction of the princess (who ends up in the body bag) is pretty fun, but from that point on the short brings nothing but a bag of horror clichés. Purikitpanya's sense of style keeps it going until the end, but people who've seen their fair share of Asian horror films might be a little bored by the end of it. 3*
All in all, the film presents four fun horror shorts, none of them below average, three of them come up with interesting elements. Thai horror is doing well for itself, and even though it's not quite yet ready to battle the better horror films coming from China and Japan, there's some real talent hidden away in here. A fun film for horror adepts looking for something outside the typical horror offerings.