- Written and directed by Yuthlert Sippapak
- Starring Supassara Thanachat, Charlie Potjes, Chalermpon Thikampornteerawong, Yok Teeranitayatarn, Aphichan Chaleumchainuwong, Thana Wityasuranan, Triwarat Chutiwatkhachorachai, Navin Yavapolkul
- Released in Thai cinemas on May 5, 2016; rated 18+
- Wise Kwai's rating: 3/5
Yuthlert Sippapak is one of the Thai film industry's more distinctive and prolific directors. His signature move is to throw all kinds of ideas into the blender and then somehow assemble them as mostly coherent films that I have more or less enjoyed over the years.
After a bit of a hiatus, he's back at it with Buppha Arigato (บุปผาอาริกาโตะ, a.k.a. Buppha Rahtree: A Haunting in Japan).
Not only does it blend the horror, comedy and romantic-drama genres, it's also an Asian cultural mix, with a blood-and-slapstick story about a Thai musician and a film crew visiting a winter resort in Japan, where they are haunted by Japanese-style ghosts as well as the ghost of a spurned young Thai woman. I also couldn't help but feel a bit of John Carpenter vibe, with perhaps a nod to Halloween.
Additionally, it is trading on a combination of well-known Thai movies, tying in with Yuthlert's own Buppha Rahtree franchise of ghost comedy-horrors and the hit 2003 film Fan Chan (แฟนฉัน, a.k.a. My Girl). The bulk of the cast are the boys from Fan Chan, all grown up, including that film's lead actor Charlie Potjes along with the schoolyard bully, Chalermpon "Jack" Thikampornteerawong. It's the first time all the guys have been reunited onscreen since they were children.
The story follows the familiar template of the Buppha Rahtree films, which dealt with the ghost of a vengeful heartbroken young woman haunting an apartment building, and mined comedy from the colorful procession of police, priests and shamans who are recruited to perform exorcisms.
Buppha Arigato changes things up by having the action take place in a rental lodge at a picturesque Japanese ski resort. And instead of one ghost, there are several. The most lethal is a knife-wielding mother and her creepy little boy, spirits of a family who stayed in the house years before but could not pay their rent.
Meanwhile, there's a young Thai woman named Buppha who comes to the resort on a solo trip to mend her broken heart. Seems she caught her boyfriend having sex with another woman. Somehow, she has passed away but her soul is hanging on at the lodge, and is drawn to Charlie and his crew because Charlie looks a bit like her cheating ex.
The lodge's shady landlord, a Thai expat portrayed by "Tar" Navin Yavapolkul, is aware of his property's status as a haunted house, and he has various clergymen brought in to get rid of the bad spirits. Among the bumbling exorcists is a Thai Buddhist monk who is hung over after having too much beer and a sake bomb the night before. His saffron robe is accessorized by expensive sunglasses and a designer handbag, reflecting an actual controversy about a jet-setting monk in Thai religious society. Later, a Thai Hindu priest takes a crack at the spirits. Neither are successful at much except getting plenty of laughs.
So it's up to Charlie, Jack and the rest of the gang to solve the mystery of why the ghosts are haunting the place.
It's a chance for the former child actor Charlie to stretch his dramatic chops, and to show his talent as an indie singer-songwriter. He gets an extended scene during the closing credits, with a stylishly shot close up of just him, his tenor voice and acoustic guitar.
Jack, now a ubiquitous TV personality and commercial pitchman, gets to play director, heading up the film unit that is comprised of other four other now-grown child actors from Fan Chan, namely Yok Teeranitayatarn, Aphichan Chaleumchainuwong, Thana Wityasuranan, Triwarat Chutiwatkhachorachai.
There is a passing of the torch, with former Buppha Ratree actress "Ploy" Chermarn Boonyasak putting in a cameo in a limbo dream sequence, and offering guidance to new-face actress Supassara Thanachat, who takes over the role.
But the real hero of Buppha Arigato is of course Yuthlert's long-time collaborator, actor and veteran film-industry hand Adirek "Uncle" Watleela, again playing a police officer as he has throughout the franchise, and in other films. Here, he's a Japanese cop, but helpfully speaks Thai, and he comes up with an unusual way of defeating the ghosts, involving the use of an umbrella and the Thai military's infamous divining-rod-like GT-200 "bomb detector".
Also, all the guys are required to strip down to their tighty-whitie underwear briefs, so at least these young emperors have a shred of dignity.