‘The Maid’ Proves the Genius of Thai Horror Despite Its Slowly Creeping Start
In a haunted mansion, a new maid with a vendetta uncovers her employers’ secrets and encounters supernatural inhabitants.
Director: Lee Thongkam
Cast: Savika Chaiyadej, Teerapat Sajjakul, Ploy Sornarin
Runtime: 100 minutes
It’s without a doubt that Thai cinema has made a name for itself in the horror genre. Their films are notoriously frightening, and that’s what makes me come back for more. As a fan of the genre, I was particularly excited to find out that there’s a new Thai horror movie released on Netflix. The Maid is just one of Netflix’s latest horror releases in the past few months, and this one manages to distinguish itself from the others with the unexpected narrative developments.
The Maid follows a young woman, Joy (Ploy Sornarin), as she gets by in her new job as a live-in housekeeper for a ridiculously wealthy family, in an absurdly majestic mansion. Dark secrets about the family and the house are gradually revealed, including the mysterious disappearance of the previous maid, Ploy (Kannaporn Puangtong). Joy is haunted by what seems to be the ghost of the previous maid, and a bizarre ghost demon monkey (I don’t know why either, to be honest).
While the plot itself isn’t something too novel, it’s compelling enough to be of interest. Unfortunately, watching the first part of The Maid almost put me off from following up with the rest of the film and staying for an otherwise enjoyable ending. The second half, nevertheless, just about makes up for the regrettably slow and almost drab first half.
The first hour or so feels drawn out and repetitive, with some elements of the film coming across as campy. The Maid also relies on a fair amount of horror cliches, but I must hand it to them – they still got me. It’s satisfying, actually, that the scares used in the film are so customary to the genre. They kindle a kind of nostalgia for classic horror tropes. Although, that ghost monkey goes unexplained.
Once a little more light is shed on Ploy’s history, the film starts reeling you in slowly but surely. The plot twist regarding Ploy and her employers’ relationship is unexpected, to say the least. The film definitely picks up after a while, with the characters becoming more compelling and interesting. Joy initially seems plainly innocent and sweet, but we get intriguing glimpses of a much more mysterious side.
By the half-time mark, it almost feels like a completely different movie, definitely in a good way. Director Lee Thongkam amps up the horror, this time, it’s not just because of the ghosts.
There’s another revelation in the last half-hour of the film, which is undoubtedly the best part. Without giving too much away, The Maid goes from a simple horror film to a gripping revenge drama. There’s twists and turns in every scene, keeping me on the edge of my seat.
Sornarin’s portrayal of Joy, too, grows even more impressive as she reveals the character’s unexpected depth. Despite the stark shift from the mild-mannered, timid Joy we meet in the beginning to a completely different one we see at the end of the film, Sornarin’s performance remains convincing and nuanced.
The technical aspects of the film also follows this upward trajectory. The visuals and sounds are satisfactory in the beginning, but reaches an intense climax towards the conclusion. One particularly memorable scene is the bloodbath that takes place at the end. The cinematography perfectly captures the madness that ensues, elevated by an eerily grand soundtrack.
The Maid concludes on such a high note that I personally think it offsets the weak start. Despite the seemingly run-of-the-mill horror plot, the turn of events are definitely unexpected. This is surely the film’s strongest point, so it’s worth checking out for the impressive handling of the loose ends. I’d still like to know what was up with that ghost monkey though.