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The Maid Movie Review

Written by Joanna K. Neilson

Released by Sparky Pictures

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Directed by Lee Thongkham
Written by Lee Thongkham and Piyaluk Tuntisrisakul
2020, 102 minutes, Not Yet Rated
Frightfest UK Premiere on 28th August 2021

Starring:
Ploy Sornarin as Joy
Savika Chaiyadej as Uma
Kannaporn Puangtong as Ploy
Theerapat Sajakul as Nirach

Review:

At first glance, this Thai horror appears to be a typical Asian spookfest; An unjustly murdered woman with long, greasy black hair, in serious need of a spa visit, is terrorising a bunch of innocent characters, guiding and threatening them along the way. Now, apart from the very weird opening scene, with a monkey demon that never quite becomes relevant again, you might think you know what you’re getting.

But The Maid is determined to surprise you and, well, the strangest thing about this film is how bad it is at messing with your expectations. It throws every trope, and a few unexpected ones, at the screen and it just feels like it can’t make up its mind about what sort of story it wants to be. I won’t spoil it here, but it never really gels in a convincing way.

the maid 01 the maid 02

Throw in the aesthetic of Park Chan-wook's The Handmaiden (2016), only delivered on a tenth of the budget and (mercifully) just a third of the runtime, and we have a chimaera that tries to be far too many things at once. Is it about a ghastly ghoul going ‘boo’? Or is it a tense erotic drama between troubled pretty people and their manipulative house-servants?

This confusion prevents the payoff from being fully satisfying, and the action drags when it should flow, and screeches to a halt for scenes written by someone who definitely read something about lesbians on Wikipedia once. But that was it.

the maid 03 the maid 04

It’s also confusing exactly when this is supposed to be set. Its aesthetic apes The Handmaiden’s nineteen-thirties glamour. Characters use classic cars, there are gorgeously tailored clothes for the vampish wife, and a beautiful old mansion. But characters also play music on their smartphones and tablets. This could, in theory, add to the disorientating, uncanny universe of the film. Personally, it all feels like just another distraction in an already cluttered mystery box.

Now, to give it its due, the film does look very beautiful. A sumptuous setting gives it plenty of potential and you want this beautiful mess to come together. And the costumes try to help. All the characters are neatly colour-coded for your convenience, with blue and red and white, and then so much more red…

the maid 05 the maid 06

There’s also a wonderful performance from Ploy Soranrin as Joy, the sweet (or is she?) and plucky new maid of this unhappy house. Her mistress, the terrifyingly poised Veronica (Sheryl Cruz) gets to devour the scenery with every icy, repressed glare. And the ghost, well, it’d be a shame to spoil her, but she’s plenty scary - at least until she becomes overused.

That’s the trouble really: It overplays itself to the point of confusion. It disorients, while being deeply unsatisfying. Once settled down after the first confusing ten minutes, it spins a decent mystery before it utterly loses its way.

But, if you’re feeling open-minded, The Maid just about holds together. Though I’m still not sure what all that monkey business at the start was really about.

Grades:

Movie: 3 Star Rating Cover
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About The Author
Joanna K. Neilson
Staff Reviewer - UK
Favourite film ever watched is Alien (1979), but usually prefers to ingest her horror with a dollop of comedy relief…though the dusty charm of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1971) and the black and white lure of Psycho (1960) continues to draw her in. Found Baskin weirdly hilarious. Finds Finding Nemo godawful. Adores H.P. Lovecraft and has sort-of pilgrimed to his grave in Providence - very tidy. Very long walk. Half-expected cats and cultists to be set up all around it but sadly, just signs saying ‘no photos’ in the cemetery.
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