ByCarole McDonnell, writer at
Writer, Reviewer, Spec-fic writer

Chanthaly, Directed by Mattie Do, the first female Laotian horror film maker. 2012. Laotian. Streaming on youtube on Mattie Do’s Channel.

Chanthaly is a Laotian ghost story and the first female-directed Laotian horror movie. It has been shown at various fim festivals around the word.

In this story Chanthaly (Chan, for short) is a girl who inherited a weak heart, the same ailment that killed her mother. Her father has kept her locked up in the house where she has a little laundry business. She longs for her mother. Which really is never a good thing. Longing for the dead opens doors that might be better left closed. After a while, Chan's starts seeing a spirit. What this spirit wants is debatable. It's possible Mom died of suicide because Dad was so overprotective and stifling. If that's the case, maybe the spirit wants Chan to live a free life. It could just be the spirit is lonely and wants to have Chan at her side. There are two guys who are enamored of Chan: Thong, a boy her age. And a doctor who prescribes meds for her. The doc sometimes seems caring. At other times he seems pervy. Dad is against both these guys. He also made matters worse by not performing the proper rites for his dead wife. Chan starts feeling the presence of her dead mother. But is it her mother? And how did her mother die really? And why is that visiting doctor so dang creepy?

I really liked this film. It's an indie, arty, slow-paced, but it touches the heart. (Unlike say, Advantageous, a scifi movie made by a Hong Kong female director, which felt so cold and almost distancing in its perfection -- and I won't lie. Advantageous is a good piece of feminist science fiction) Chanthaly is not distancing. Rather, it is intimate.

This is a good movie. Moving, gentle, downright arty. It doesn’t feel like a horror film at all. Gore-whores will be disappointed because the horrible stuff that happens in this film happens between living humans. The father's protective attitude toward the daughter is terrifying and one wonders if Chan --dead or alive-- would ever find freedom. I did miss jump scares. After a while something happens to Chan that wouldn’t really happen in an American horror film. The ending is unclear. I wondered if the director either willfully tried to confuse the viewer or believed she had made something clear that simply was not clear. At least to me. Still, it is smart little indie. And many people will like it. Recommended.


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