Movie| Pee Mak Phra Khanong — BAYOG Spoop Fest #3

Movie| Pee Mak Phra Khanong — BAYOG Spoop Fest #3

Why hello, hello my dear BAYOG Fam!~ Usually I cover live adaptations of popular manga/webtoon series. However, for BAYOG Spoop Fest, I thought I’d also be throwing in some Asian horror movies~ We all know Asian horror movies can be the scariest shit ever. Thai horror movies can also be incredibly chilling. We Thai people are good at scaring the living shit out of people. I also just find Asian horror movies fun because of all the cultural aspects and rituals to them. However, I’m going to start it off easy with a movie from a popular sub-genre: Thai horror comedy. Horror comedies are my favorite because they can have some really spoopy moments, but it’s a bit more light hearted. Plus, there are plenty of laughs. Never seen a Thai horror comedy? You’re missing out. I figured this would be a good start so I don’t scare y’all too much (also it’s my birthday, and I didn’t want to scare myself either). Anyway, today I’ll be talking about one of my favorite films: พี่มาก..พระโขนง/Pee Mak Phra Khanong, also known simply as Pee Mak.

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BACKGROUND INFO

Before I get into the movie, there’s something I have to explain in order for you to better understand and enjoy the movie. This movie is a very loose and comedic adaptation of one of Thailand’s most famous urban legends and ghost stories. It’s based on the story of แม่นาก/Mae Nak (Lady Nak) or นางนาก/Nang Nak (Miss Nak) of Phra Khanong. Another thing is that this is said to be based on a true story. It supposedly took place during the reign of King Mongkut (aka King Rama IV). So basically sometime between 1851-1868 when Thailand was still known as Siam. The story takes place along the Phra Khanong canal where Mae Nak lived with her husband Mak.

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The Legend of Mae Nak — The Most Famous Ghost Story in Thailand
According to the legend, Mae Nak was a very beautiful woman who lived along the Phra Khanong Canal with her husband, Mak. The two were happy and very much in love. However, a war broke out and Mak had to go help defend Siam. He had to leave behind a now pregnant Nak. Mak is injured in battle and has to be nursed back to health in central Bangkok. It is during this time that Nak goes into labor. Unfortunately, both mother and child die during the difficult childbirth. It’s said that Nak would hold her baby and cry for her husband’s return. They say the villagers were terrorized with her chilling cries for “Pee Mak” (Pee is what you call someone older than you; So like Oppa/Unnie in Korean or Onii-chan/Onee-chan in Japanese) and the haunting lullaby she would sing to her baby at night. Mak returns home, unaware of his wife and child’s deaths. However, when Mak returns, he’s welcomed by his loving wife and child. Mak has no idea that his wife and child died and are now ghosts. They say that he was under Nak’s enchantment. The villagers of Phra Khanong try to warn him, but Mae Nak kills anyone who tries to interfere with her and Mak. It’s said that while cooking, Nak dropped a lime underneath the house (Traditional Thai houses back then were houses on stilts). In another version Nak dropped a comb while combing her hair. Nak stretched her arm to reach for it below, unaware that Mak is there. Witnessing this, Mak finally realizes the truth. He later makes an excuse to go outside and then flees. Nak chases after him, but he finds refuge at Wat Mahabut (Mahabut Temple). Nak cannot enter and pursue Mak because the temple is holy ground. And so Nak starts terrorizing and killing the villagers, furious that they separated her from her love. She continues terrorizing them while demanding to be reunited with her husband. It’s said that a powerful exorcist came and sealed her spirit in an earthen pot. He then threw the pot into the river. There are some different endings and continuations to the story from here. In one version, it’s said that some fishermen or an old couple new to the village found the pot and accidentally released Mae Nak from her imprisonment. It is said that the venerable monk Somedj Toh (basically one of the most famous Buddhist monks in Thai history) subdued her. It’s said the monk possessed magical powers and he confined Mae Nak’s spirit to the bone of her forehead. It’s said that the relic is in possession of the royal family. In another version, the monk convinced Mae Nak that she had to move on in order to be reunited with her husband in a future life. Thus, she voluntarily moves on to the afterlife.

Again, this is one of the most famous urban legends and ghost stories in Thailand. However, it isn’t just seen as a ghost story. It’s also seen as one of the most famous love stories because it showed Nak’s devotion and undying love (see what I did there?) to her husband; Even after her death. Don’t ask me why…people just find it a beautiful love story apparently? Apparently, Mae Nak was a real person. There’s also a shrine to Mae Nak in Phra Khanong, now known as the Suan Luang district in Bangkok, which you can visit. Your girl hasn’t gone there…yet. The legend is also often referenced in alooot of pop culture from various movies, books, and comics. There have also been many adaptations of the legend; From movies, musicals, and television series.

PEE MAK…PHRA KHANONG

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PLOT
Everyone has heard the legend of Mae Nak Phra Khanong and her undying love for her husband, Pee Mak. Her story has been told countless of times. However, this isn’t her story. It’s his. Mak has been fighting a war to defend Siam. Rather than the war to defend his country, all he can think about is his beautiful and pregnant wife, Nak. While injured on the battlefield, he befriends four other soldiers: Ter, Aey, Shin, and Peuak. The friends travel with Mak to his home, Phra Khanong. There, Mak is reunited with his wife and baby. Mak invites his friends to stay in Phra Khanong until the war is over; Offering them to stay at his deceased aunt’s home across the canal. As the four friends get settled in Phra Khanong, they’ve noticed how eerily quiet it is. The villagers act strange and seem terrified when they see Mak return and mention his wife. What Mak and his friends don’t realize is that Nak and the baby are ghosts, having died during the difficult childbirth. Will Mak’s friends be able to save him from Nak?

As I’ve said, the legend of Mae Nak is quite famous. It’s been adapted many times in various media. However, this movie has a different approach. The 2013 film instead focuses on a horror-comedy approach with a focus on her husband, Pee Mak. This new take on the story also includes Mak’s friends, four new characters that have never existed in any previous adaptations. It’s an incredibly loose adaptation, and not historically accurate. However, it’s just a fun take on the story that everyone knows so well. There are alot of jokes here and there that reference modern pop culture. However, I will warn you that some of the references in the official subtitles aren’t an accurate translation. There are a few times where they use more well known western references instead, or change the jokes a bit to make it more understandable for western audiences. For example, there’s a scene where Peuak is giving a speech and mentions 300. In reality he mentioned Bang Rajan, a 2000 Thai-historical movie that depicted the battle against Burmese invaders in the village of Bang Rajan. Another example is the game of charades. Ter gets the word “ผีเสื้อ/Pee Seua”, or butterfly. It’s a wonderfully fun film. The film is directed by Banjong Pisanthanakun, famous for the Thai horror movies Shutter [LINK] and Alone (also known as Twins) [LINK]. He’s also famous for the romantic comedy Hello Stranger [LINK]. Pee Mak was incredibly successful and is currently the highest grossing Thai film of all time.

CAST

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Mae Nak. The famous character is played by the beautiful “Mai” Davika Hoorne. This role is what basically made the Thai-Belgian actress rise as one of the most sought after Thai actresses. Nak is Mak’s beautiful and devoted wife. The pregnant Nak is left alone at their home in Phra Khanong as Mak fights in the war to protect Siam. As Mak is away, Nak goes into labor. Sadly, she and the baby do not make it. However, they return as ghosts. Nak carries her baby at the pier everyday and awaits for the return of her love. Her cries for “Pee Mak” terrify the villagers. She is loves Mak dearly, and it’s her undying love that has caused her to remain as a ghost.

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Pee Mak. The star of this adaptation is played by heartthrob Mario Maurer. The Thai-Chinese-German actor has always been popular. This version is completely different from the Mak that everyone knows. Mak was previously seen as a very brave, strong, handsome, and manly Thai dude. In this version, Mak is more of a flower boy. He’s more delicate, and an awful soldier. He’s a crybaby and he’s terrified of ghosts and ghost stories. He’s also not very bright in this version. However, he’s a kind man who loves his wife and child dearly.

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Mak’s Friends. These characters did not exist in the original or previous adaptations. They were created soley for this take. There’s Peuak. He’s played by Pongsathorn Jongwilas. He’s a huge flirt and pretty narcissistic. He’s also the loudest one in the group. There’s Shin, played by Wiwat Kongrasri. He’s like the scaredy cat of the group. He’s probably the most naiive of the group. He’s also the one everyone picks on the most. There’s Aey, played by Kantapat Permpoonpatcharasuk. He’s really into gambling and playing cards. There’s Ter, played by “Freud” Nuttapong Chartpong. He’s basically like the leader of the group. He’s very outgoing and playful, but he’s also paranoid as hell.

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“The Man in the Middle” from 4Bia (2008). Everyone looks so young here!

The actors who played Mak’s friends are very well known for their previous roles together. They’re well known for having appeared together in two of Banjong Pisanthanakun’s other works: “The Man in the Middle” from the horror anthology 4Bia (2008) [LINK], and “In the End” from it’s sequal 5Bia/Phobia 2 (2009) [LINK]. Both are also horror comedies. They were my favorites from the anthology series. The characters all have the same names too haha. The actors have also appeared together in several other productions. The actor who plays Peuak also starred in Muad Opas the Series, which is mostly subbed by yours truly [LINK].


The main theme song from this film is อยากหยุดเวลา/Yahk Yoot Way Lah, or “I Want to Stop Time” by Thai-Belgian pop singer Palmy (Eve Pancharoen). The song is a remake of the 1991 song of the same name by Sarangya Songsermsawad. I love Palmy. I’ve been a fan of her since her debut song in like 2001.

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Pee Mak is truly a wonderfully fun horror-comedy. I also am not usually a fan of historical types of films. However, this film is one of my all time favorite Thai films. It’s a fresh and comedic take on the classic Mae Nak tale. While it does have some spook moments, the film isn’t really scary. It’s more comedy than horror. However, it enjoyable and also keeps the spirit of Mae Nak and Pee Mak’s love for one another. It also has some references to famous parts of the Mae Nak legend from previous adaptations. As with Banjong Pisanthanakun’s other works, there are some twists here and there. If you’re looking for something fun to watch, I highly recommend this one. It is up on Netflix [LINK]. Watch it until the end of the credits too, as there are some extra scenes.

BONUS: MINTY’S GUIDE

There’s quite alot of cultural stuff in the movie though. So to help you understand and enjoy it more, I’ve included a little cheat sheet for you here~ It doesn’t include all the things, just what I know and understand. Some stuff flies over my head too since I’m an American born/raised Thai… Let me know if you have any questions~ Also remember what I said in the Home Sweet Home post, Thais are hella superstitious. So we believe in alot of different superstitions and have alot of different supernatural beliefs than what you may be familiar with. So come learn something new~

[Warning: Some Spoilers Ahead; But I’m assuming that you’re watching it]

Black Teeth??
This is an old tradition that was also common amongst other Asian cultures. For one, it was seen as a beauty standard. However, most importantly, there was a belief that only evil spirits and monsters had white teeth. Therefore blackened teeth were to assure that you were not one. Apparently you blackened teeth by chewing a betal nut. That was the norm then. However, some people still practice this throughout Asia.

The Name “Dang”.
Dang is Thai for “Red”. So basically alot of Thai nicknames come from very common names or words. Thai people believe in having a nickname so that you won’t get spirited away. Anyway, Dang is a hellaaaaaaa common name. It’s like naming someone Joe, John, or something other common name.

กระสือ/Krasue (Filth-Eating Spirit)
Another famous type of nocturnal Thai spirit. It’s also found in several other cultures as well. Krasue are said to be young and beautiful women. During the day, they’re living lives like ordinary villagers. Night time is a totally different story. They’re characterized as floating heads that have their entrails dangling about below their neck. It’s said that they have a sort of will-o-wisp glowing going around them. According to Thai folklore, the krasue is cursed to always be hungry, and at night it seeks blood, flesh, or filth (poop) to satisfy it’s hunger. Skeptics believe that villagers in the country side are actually mistaking fireflies for what they think are krasue.

Buddha Amulet
Thailand is predominantly Buddhist. Like probably 98-99% of Thailand is Buddhist. Buddhist teachings and values are embedded in alot of Thai culture and society. Many people wear Buddha amulets. The amulets are either of the Buddha himself, or can be of reknowned and venerable monks. These monks are said to be very holy and sometimes hold special powers. One such monk is the monk from the original Mae Nak tale. The front of the amulet has the image of the Buddha or monk, while the back contains Buddhist inscriptions. Basically, just about every Thai person has one or more of these amulets. I got some too. Thai people believe these amulets can ward off evil spirits, protect you from evil and misfortune, or even bring you good fortune. Some people will even wear a necklace with large ones or a dozen of these amulets. However, it’s said that you are not to wear these in an even number. At least that’s what my grandma told me. Anyway, they serve a similar usage and purpose as Christians use and wear crosses.

Releasing Fish for Merit
So there’s a scene where the fish vendor makes the excuse that it’s a Buddhist holy day and he’s going to release the fish for merit. As I said before, Thais are predominantly Buddhist. We believe in karma, living several lifetimes, and making merit (basically brownie points for your soul and next life). On Buddhist holy days, people will generally buy and release different things like fish, birds, or turtles to make merit. You can also just do this on birthdays or whenever you want to just make merit in general. Which is also why Shin’s remark, “Do you think uncle will get the merit?” (“Do you think he did that right?” in the official English subs) is a part of the joke.

Looking Between Your Legs to See Ghosts
Like I said, we superstitious. One of the superstitious beliefs is that the way to see a ghost is by bending over and looking between their legs. It was explained in the movie, but this really is a superstitious belief that Thai people hold. I know it sounds silly, and I don’t really know exactly why they believe this. Maybe something like it allows you to see the flip side, the ghost realm?

The Dropped Lime Scene
This is a reference to previous adaptations of the story. I’m not sure if it’s in the original tale, but supposedly one of the earliest movies about Mae Nak included a scene where she dropped a lime beneath the house. She then stretches her arm to reach for it. It’s since been a famous scene that everyone associates with Mae Nak now.

Nak Is a Ghost/Nak Is Gross
Yet another scene where the subs were changed to make the joke understandable for a foreign audience. Originally, Ter writes “Nak is a ghost”. It gets smudged and instead reads as “Nak is gross”. What actually happens is that the word ผี/Pee (Ghost) gets smudged and reads as ฝี/Fee, which means “boil” or “abscess”. That’s why Ter goes on about a pimple under his armpit or some shit.

The Charades Joke: Butterfly Not Desert
So you might’ve been confused when the guys were playing charades and Ter was flapping his arms for the word “desert”. This was one of the instances where the official English subs were changed from the actual dialogue in order for western audiences to get the joke. The word Ter actually ผีเสื้อ/Pee Seua, which means “butterfly”. This is why you see Ter flapping his arms around at first. The word for “butterfly” is made of two words ผี/Pee and เสื้อ/Seua. ผี/Pee means “ghost”, while เสื้อ/Seua means “shirt”. “Minty, I thought you said Pee was someone older–” Thai is a tonal language, so it’s a different accent mark. พี่ is the word used to address/reference someone older. ผี means ghost.

Nak’s Charade Word: M.Y.O.B.
In this scene the friends are freaking out because they screwed their selves over by revealing that Nak is a ghost. As they try paddling away in the boat, Nak stands at the pier and says, “Don’t you want to come back and finish the game? I haven’t had my turn yet.” Shin then asks, “Then what word/phrase would you choose?” The English sub translated it as, “M.Y.O.B. (Mind Your Own Business).” What she actually said was something like, “Swinging feet beneath the head.” So basically the image of hanging someone. I only point this out because it shows Nak is threatening them, not just warning them.

“Do You Love Me Lots and Lots”
So this version of Mak is like a squishy cutie. He speaks in a baby voice to Nak all the time, and just gushes his love for her. There’s a scene where they’re on the ferris wheel and he asks her if she loved him “lots and lots”. I don’t know why the hell the official subs translated it as “Love me lots and lots like jelly tots?” LIke WTF is a jelly tot?? So in the Thai language, it’s not uncommon to use your name in place of “I”, “Me”, and “Myself”. This is a play on words. มาก/Mak means “many” or “alot”. In Thai, you can emphasize something my saying the word. What Mak is literally saying is if she loves him “มากๆ/ mak mak”, or just “lots and lots”. Yes, the subs for the movie bugged me alot and I would volunteer to fix it if I could. Anyways, yeah…Mak is making a silly pun.

Holy Rice
So y’all heard of throwing holy water or salt at evil spirits right (Hey Supernatural fans)? Yeah, holy rice (rice blessed by a monk) works the same way. It’s basically like the Asian version of throwing salt at evil shit.

Haunted House: Thai Ghosts
So there’s a scene where the characters go into a haunted house attraction. There, they see several well known Thai ghosts. These ghosts also appear in several other cultures as well (Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, etc). One of them is the krasue, which I talked about earlier. There’s also ผีกระหัง/Pee Khrahang, which is a nocturnal male spirit. It’s often mentioned and appears alongside the krasue. Like the krasue, it appears as a normal villager during the day. At night, he’s a spirit of a shirtless man in a loincloth that can fly using two large kradong (large rice winnowing baskets). It’s a spirit that tries to harm people walking late at night in out of the way areas. กุมารทอง/Kuman Tong (Golden Little Boy) appear as a young boy. They’re said to bring good luck and fortune to the household. They’re basically seen as luck bringing deities. The original tradition of the Kuman Tong is tied to necromancy. Kuman Tong are made by obtaining the discarded fetus of children who died in the womb. Apparently witch doctors had the magic to invoke the stillborn children and adopt them as their children and use them for whatever they need. It’s said that it uses black magic. The black magic ceremony calls for the fetus to be roasted dry, covered in the same lacquer used for amulets, and then covered in gold leaf. Lastly, you have ผีตานี/Pee Thani or นางตานี/Nang Thani. It’s the spirit of a young woman in traditional Thai clothing who haunts wild banana trees. She appears kind of green, like the banana tree. It’s like a fairy spirit of sorts. They’re mostly considered as benevolent spirits. However, it’s also said that they harm men, particularly those that have harmed women.

Water Monitor/Otter
There’s a scene where Shin yells out, “เหี้ย/Hia”. It’s translated in the subs as “Holy shit” Which isn’t completely wrong. However, you then see a water monitor. You see “เหี้ย/Hia” is the local word for the water monitor. However, it’s commonly used as a curse or jinx. So people usually call a water monitor ตัวเงินตัวทอง/Dtua Ngern Dtua Tong, or “Silver and Gold”, to avoid the jinx. The other pun in this scene is where Peuak says in response, “Geez! I thought that you saw Nak”. The subs had it translated as “I thought that you saw her”. You then see an otter, because นาก/Nak means “otter”. Yup, punssss.


Enchanted/Holy Thread
This thread has been blessed and is basically used as a barrier to keep evil things out. Kind of like how they use salt as a barrier in Supernatural. When broken, it no longer has any effect.

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