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Gonggoi

a.k.a. THE BEAST
Right Beyond [ 2002 ] 93′
country: Thailand
director: JAROONGSAK VONGLAUENG
cast: ROONGNAPA BROOKE, PONGSAKORN SRIJUN,
cast: JINTANA AROMYEN, SARUS LAO UTAIWATTANA

An archaeologist, on a trip to find rare and valuable artifacts along the Cambodian border, comes across a small wooden idol [dropped by a terrified local] on the outskirts of a village in which all the people have been brutally murdered. A forest-dwelling priest offers him sound advice on the object – it was once the property of the evil Gonggoi [pronounced Kong Koy], and care must be taken to prevent that evil from befalling its new owner. The priest gives the archaeologist a sacred cloth to place on the head of the doll to subdue its power, which he obligingly uses. Once he returns home, the archaeologist puts the idol among the rest of his collection, sacred cloth and all.

Unfortunately, the archaeologist’s daughter Yoyo and her cadre of friends do not have the same reverence for her dad’s collection of idols. His advice on the importance of treating them with dignity and respect falls on deaf ears, and it’s only a matter of time before the Gonggoi idol is in the hands of school buddy Joe [who, of course, wastes no time in removing the all-important sacred cloth]. Soon thereafter strange noises to start emanating from around Joe’s house and his dreams fill with images of his own violent death.

But bother the strange sounds and nightmares, Yoyo’s friends need a cheap place to party after their finals [and for Yoyo's birthday] and Joe’s house, given that his parents are gone, seems ideal. The usual inexpensive liquor and chintzy decorations are collected, bad covers of pop songs [Dance Little Lady Dance, Beat It and, no joking, Footloose] played, and the friends – six of them – gather for a night of fun. Little do they know that their evening of ass-slapping and dispassionate full-clothed necking are destined to be rudely interrupted by the violent tendencies of the real Gonggoi, a long armed ape-man-thing with glowing red eyes and a penchent for ripping teenagers to bits with his bare hands.

From the moment the candles on Yoyo’s birthday cake are blown out, GONGGOI is in standard slasher territory. Teenagers separate from the group for various reasons only to find themselves torn limb from limb by the demonic monkey-man. It’s up to daddy archaeologist, concerned when he can’t reach Yoyo’s cell phone, to save the day.

Those expecting a decent exploitation venture [or even an entertainingly bad one] are going to be sorely disappointed with this Z-grade straight-to-video dud. The idea of a cursed artifact visiting death and destruction on those who possess it has been done to death, and GONGGOI adds nothing new to the mix.

The production is disappointingly paltry, even for a no budget Thai effort. Reasonable lighting and art direction are utterly wasted on the shoddy photography, a one-two combination of long tracking shots and shaky handheld work. Far worse than the photography is the sound design, which is so poorly conceived that it is a constant distraction. All of the audio, save the score and a few looped sound effects, sounds to have originated from the camera mics themselves, with no attempt made in post production to blend the various perspectives of the ambient noise around them. If ever there were an argument to be made for the value of looping dialogue, this film may be it.

And then there is the issue of the editing. GONGGOI attempts to build suspense the same way over and over again – juxtapose shot A with unrelated shot B, repeat four times, then something happens. It’s like rusty malfunctioning clockwork. There are also embarrassing audio gaffs that should have been remedied in the editing stage, like the numerous shots that either begin or end with the performers noisily clearing their throats.

The cast itself varies wildly on the scale of performance aptitude, with Yoyo’s archaeologist father faring about the best out of the bunch. His daughter and her friends are absolutely insufferable at times, particularly during the frequent moments of dispassionate necking. Combined with the lousy scripting and lousier production, these young stars don’t have a chance.

GONGGOI earns what little entertainment value it possesses from the folklore-inspired demon-ghost featured in the title, even if for all the wrong reasons. The creature is brought to life by the tried and true suitmation method, the suit in this case being more in line with the laughable gorillas of old [think WHITE PONGO] than with what one might expect to find in a modern production. Its trademark red eyes are accomplished with awful video effects, though sadly not the worst of them that GONGGOI has to offer. Still, the beast’s preponderance for slapping his victims in the face with his grotesquely long arms makes for a few moments of high hilarity, though not nearly enough to warrant sitting through the hour and ten minutes of narrative tedium that precedes them.

The gore on display pretty tame for what I was expecting, amounting to some splashes of stage blood, a couple of disembodied hands, and some brief glimpses of entrails. All of it is about as successfully accomplished as the rest of the picture – which means not at all. The average Sci-Fi Channel Original Movie has more frequent and impressive carnage than this, a sad state of affairs indeed.

I’m sure that Thailand has some decent cinema to offer, but GONGGOI is definitely not it – even the lowly TAH TIEN seemed more inspired. Those seeking an uber-violent bigfoot fix should turn elsewhere, NIGHT OF THE DEMON [not to be confused with the Jacques Tourneur film of the same name] perhaps. GONGGOI is to be avoided.

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