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Horrors Elsewhere is a recurring column that spotlights a variety of movies from all around the globe, particularly those not from the United States. Fears may not be universal, but one thing is for sure a scream is understood, always and everywhere.

Although Japan and South Korea dominated the import boom of Asian horror circa 2000s, Thailand gained more attention all thanks to one movie. Shutter, the 2004 ghost story about a haunted photographer, put Thai horror on everyone’s radar. And when it came time to follow up on their debut, filmmakers Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom stayed within the same genre, as well as crafted another suspenseful haunter.

Alone begins in South Korea where the protagonist, Pim (Marsha Wattanapanich), now lives with her husband, Wee (Vittaya Wasukraipaisan). After Pim’s surprise birthday party, she receives word about her mother, who has been hospitalized for a heart attack back in Thailand. Pim temporarily relocates so she can be by her mother’s side, but being back home starts to stir up bad memories and unresolved feelings. Until they were fifteen years old, Pim and her twin sister, Ploy, were conjoined. The operation that separated them was not entirely successful; only Pim survived. Pim has quietly lived with the guilt since then, but being back in her homeland, she can only think of Ploy. That shame eventually begins to manifest as visions and apparitions in the corner of her eye. Is this all the work of a troubled conscience, or does Ploy’s spirit actually inhabit her childhood home?


The main inspiration for Alone is undoubtedly the most famous set of conjoined twins, Chang and Eng Bunker. The now-outdated term ‘Siamese twins’ originated with the brothers, who were born in Thailand when it was called Siam. However, Alone is also inspired by a longstanding cultural notion about twinship. Superstitions surrounding identical twins vary from place to place, but one single belief is widespread. Ancient folklore and mythology planted the idea that one twin can be the moral inversion of the other. Later on, the ‘evil twin’ was born and popularized by books, film, and television. While the horror genre is no stranger to the trope, few movies focus on conjoined twins. Even fewer see them as individualized characters free of stereotypes.

Representing polar ends of the morality scale, Pim is always seen as the kind-hearted twin, whereas Ploy is immortalized as the jealous and selfish one. This is a traditional depiction in media; twins are extreme opposites in personality. Even though other stories might reference the yin and yang construct when writing their twins as night and day characters, there is also the complementary element — the twins complete each other — that is absent from Pim and Ploy’s relationship. They were more harmonious in the past, but things changed for the worse once Wee came between them.


The nature of identity is something regularly explored with twins. In Alone, Ploy is seen as the more aggressive and protective sister. She stood up to the bullies who made fun of her and Pim; at one point she hit one of their childhood tormentors square in the face with a rock. So when Wee came along, the twin dynamic was upset. Ploy not only feared losing her role as Pim’s knight, she felt alienated by her sibling’s romance. Being scared of abandonment is one thing, but Ploy’s tactics to keep her sister and Wee apart suggests something else was going on. Something darker.

Pisanthanakun and Wongpoom approach the supernatural aspect of Alone rather differently this time around. In Shutter, the ghost Ananda Everingham’s character sees is less ambiguous in both appearance and origin. Meanwhile, Pim’s mental breakdown is evidenced by visceral and spectral fantasies that may or may not be the work of a restless spirit. She sees horrifying figures just about everywhere she goes; in a mirror, in the bathtub, in the garden house, and inside an elevator. Yet every time something bizarre happens, Wee and a psychologist try to convince her — and the audience — this is only a product of Pim’s guilt complex. The film does its damndest to create an air of doubt surrounding the phantasmal antagonist. 


This era of Asian horror was big on overt jolts and scares, and Alone did not shy away from the trend. The frights are pulled off in all seriousness without the intermittent comic relief so common in the directors’ horror output. When there is no ghost action to be found, the movie delivers random and grisly shocks that will not sit well with animal lovers. Alone exudes meanness here and there, and when it wants to, it is plain nasty.

After the sizable twist in Shutter, the audience can expect something similar — but very different — for Alone. Going down the road it takes, though, the movie risks losing its audience. Almost always, Thai horror tends to be about ghosts as opposed to the human killers, zombies, and other villains commonly seen in Western movies. For all intents and purposes, there is an unearthly force at work here, but just as easily, the events can be explained away with a more logical theory.

Alone stokes thoughts of doppelgängers and survivor guilt. Wattanapanich’s performance is unchained, Niramon Ross‘ cinematography surpasses that of her last collaboration with the directors, and the ending takes a turn in the best way possible. The movie does not quite pack the same punch as its predecessor; Shutter hands down wins in terms of reveals. Even so, Pisanthanakun and Wongpoom put together an exceptional sophomore film that deserves a bigger audience and wider distribution.


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