The Swimmers (Thailand, 2014) - Review
The following is a review written for Easternkicks.com and reposted here. The Swimmers was originally viewed at the East Winds Film Festival 2014 (International Festival Premiere)
The Thai master of suspense returns after smash hit Laddaland with his latest horror that dredges the murky depths of thriller cinema.
Director. Sopon Sukdapisit
East Winds Film Festival. International Festival Premiere
The Swimmers is a film that I have been looking forward to watching for months, with masses of promotion online and much discussion in the fan community about the GTH Director’s return. It was a film that did not disappoint.
Perth and Tan are best friends, competition swimmers for their school trying to win the prime athlete slot for a University scholarship. Ice (Supassra Thanachat) is the bubbly and clever girlfriend of the team’s star swimmer Tan (Thanapob Leeratanakajorn); whilst their close friend Perth (Chutavuth Pattarakampol) competes from second place, both for the love of Ice and also to win the single scholarship slot. The story takes an immediately drastic turn as Ice commits suicide, distraught over her unknown pregnancy, whilst now-ex-boyfriend Tan is trying to hunt down the guy who lead his girlfriend to commit suicide, all the while Perth is haunted by Ice’s spirit and desperately avoiding Tan’s accusations.
The trailer is misleading, and this is a film you can’t prepare yourself for. Director Sukdapisit is a master at the art of making audiences jump; and whether you are a honed horror aficionado or a fresh thriller viewer, it’s practically impossible to place when exactly the jump scares will be during the film. The soundtrack pitches and mellows sporadically to put you off the scent, and suddenly a massive scare will be thrown in from the side during a mellow piece of ambient sound. The rumbling bass noises of the soundtrack and
the whine of some electrode creates a blood-curdling effect that constantly keeps you, the viewer, on the
edge of your seat. I watched several scenes through my fingers as the supposed spirit of the girl who
committed suicide pounces upon the unsuspecting Perth.
The best part of The Swimmers is the way that you are constantly mislead, the unexpected ending and the pitching of the narrative back and forth in continuity helps to construct a story better than telling it chronologically. Scenes will jump through time, with brief colour changes to dictate past or present, to better relate what previously happened. Flashbacks are gone, and instead the art of side-along storytelling is utilized to creep and thrill the audience as the silence lingers… and lingers… and lingers….
The love triangle between the three main characters comes to a dramatic head, both with the suicide of Ice and the competition between the two friends for the sole University slot. A lot of character building is sown into the script, and you really get a feeling for who they are, their motivations and background. This is potentially the greatest element of the film, combined with some spectacular actors that really sell it well, as you are invested in the characters and ‘want’ to know more about their story and motivations. Perth’s backstory and home life is explored, as his Mother is dating his Swimming Teacher, whilst Tan’s emotional breakdown is primarily told through digital communication and Perth’s reactions.
The soundtrack constantly throws you off, with fake jump scares and lulls in ambience to truly shock the audience, whilst the narrative is effectively told through a dual-running continuity. All of this combined with some excellent acting creates a film that truly does linger with the audience, the superb cinematography both in and out the pool only furthers the fear of the unknown and the dark depths of the water. The morally ambiguous ending and unexpected plot turns are truly spectacular, leaving you constantly guessing where the film is going to end up. Director Sukdapisit has hit his gold medal with The Swimmers, but be wary, as this is one film that doesn’t settle for half measures with the audience.