June 15, 2021

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‘The Phantom Experiment’: Netflix explores Thai terror with two scientists willing to prove the existence of the afterlife

1622385545 The Phantom Experiment Netflix explores Thai terror with two scientists

Netflix has found a curious vein in supernatural cinema from Asia, but not from nationalities more seen around here, like Japan or Hong Kong, but from more exotic places (but with overwhelmingly commercial large film production), like Thailand or Indonesia. From the brutal Indonesian horror cinema, it has released films such as the incredible ‘The woman from hell‘, and from Thailand is this peculiar mix of thriller, soap opera and supernatural horror.

Of course, ‘The Phantom Experiment ‘is far from the narrative sobriety of North American films of comparable plot, like ‘Insidious’ or Blumhouse productions. ‘The Phantom Experiment’ (which in English has the even funnier title of ‘Ghost Lab’, as if it were a reality Ghostbusters) is an authentic roller coaster where you go from hyperdrama to zombie terror without notifying the viewer. With its drops of science thriller.

In fact, the two protagonists are a couple of young doctors who are convinced of the existence of the afterlife and want to prove it scientifically. To do this, they will launch a series of experiments that will put their own integrity and that of those around them at risk. All for paranormal science.

And this is only the starting point, in fact narrated with a certain sarcasm: for example, when the protagonists begin their experiments, they even say that what happened in the Thai film ‘Shutter: The Photographer’ does not work. ‘Shutter’ is one of the great successes of fantastic Thai cinema, and it spawned several remakes, among them the North American ‘Portraits of the Beyond’. In other words, the protagonists are very aware of being in a multigenic experiment where anything goes.

Between ‘Ghost’ and ‘The Ghostbusters’

Soon this light approach gives rise to an atmosphere of supernatural terror, but without being completely immersed in that dynamic. There is romantic drama, there are a few reflections on grief and loss (in fact, constant gender changes sometimes seem like a meta reflection on the various phases you go through when you lose someone you love), and there are script twists every few years. steps, turning ‘The Phantom Experiment’ into a very enjoyable adventure. As long as codes of Western coherence are not sought in the ever more unpredictable Asian genre cinema, of course.

Undoubtedly, the most interesting thing about the argument is the excuse of the scientific search for life in the afterlife, following very inaccurate methods, but with all the laboratory paraphernalia: gowns, blackboards and formulas, such as “Energy = worries / revenge”. The fact that the first steps in the investigation are taken by the existence of the platypus as a “rare” mammal gives some clue about how little seriously the film takes those terms.

In fact, sometimes the film recalls that mythical ‘Mortal line’, a milestone in supernatural youth cinema from 1990, in which a group of ambitious young scientists underwent near-death experiences to collect data about the afterlife. The moral was, a bit, that there are things that better be left quiet, as it happens here.

Even if ‘The Phantom Experiment’ is perhaps missing some of the morbid thrust and moral violence of Indonesian horror movies, its two hours step on the accelerator from the beginning and do not give too much time to dwell on the coherence of the plot or give the slightest sense to the very radical decisions that its protagonists make. A joyous witch train with a scientific alibi for fans of the irrational chill.