Thai film makers excel at the ‘supernatural’

Supernatural cinema has become a spellbinding export for Thailand over the years, according to The Face, a leading culture magazine and website, with Thai directors exceling at entertaining audiences with weird and frightening films.

The release of Memoria, an eerie film starring Tilda Swinton and directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, recently in the United Kingdom inspired the magazine to take a deeper look at the Kingdom’s decades of success in the horror and fantasy film genres.

Memoria’s “lush cinematography and spiritualizing themes do point to a specific flavor of filmmaking that has, for decades, helped to raise the profile of the Thai film industry overseas,” The Face wrote. “As a country steeped in mythology and densely forested with untamed jungle, where more than 95 percent of the population practices Buddhism, it should be no surprise that Thailand actually pairs quite nicely with a rather uncanny brand of commercial cinema.”

A “beguiling, transcendental art film,” Memoria has “already won the Jury Prize at Cannes and placed at number four in the annual Sight and Sound end-of-year critics’ poll last month,” The Face wrote.

Apichatpong won the Palme d’Or, the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010 for his ghostly film Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, and a Jury Prize in 2004 for Tropical Maladies.

The Face said that Thai filmmakers have been successful at remaining true to the culture’s traditional supernatural tales while also becoming more globalized. It also added that Thai horror films are increasingly visible at international film festivals, and are even being submitted for Oscars consideration.

Other Thai ghost and horror films that have caught international attention over the past quarter century include Bangkok Haunted, The Victim and The Wheel, and the Hong Kong-born, Thailand-based Pang Brothers’ film Bangkok Dangerous (1999).

“One of the more distinctive Thai horror films of the era, though, was Nonzee Nimibutr’s 1999 folk-horror Nang Nak,” the website wrote.

The most successful, highest-grossing Thai ghost film to date, Pee Mak, was released in 2019. The British newspaper The Guardian wrote back then that “Thailand could make horror-comedy – compared to the more baleful Japanese spookers, or the bloodier Korean variants – its specialty.”

Photo courtesy of