Ghost Game aka Laa-thaa-phii (2006) Thai Reality TV Horror

Ghost Game posterGhost Game, or Laa-thaa-phii, its original title, is a great concept. Set in the world of Thai reality TV where horror meets greed and a group of 11 wannabes, the winner(s) have to spend a pre-ordained amount of time in a haunted Khmer Rouge prison and those who make it to the end will win a whole lot of Baht (5 million). On top of this fairly clever premise is the filmmakers decision to use real-life contestants from Thailand’s own version of American Idol, called Academy Fantasia.

In one review on IMDb, the statement is made that the characters are all “unappealing.” Well spotted! Of course they are, they are really contestants from the vile world of reality television. Sadly, the film does not hit all the right spots, as say the 2008 miniseries (later turned into a film by putting all the bits together) Dead Set. In Dead Set the producers took the stomach turning reality TV show “Big Brother,” fictionalized it and had zombies attack it.

Granted, not quite as original as Ghost Games but the chance to see show host Davina McCall get turned into a zombie made it a real winner, but that could just apply to this viewer. In the 2006 Thai film, the hopefuls all come from the “real” world of Thailand’s reality TV. Interestingly, the government was a more than a bit peeved about the show’s premise.

poster of Dead Set

Setting it in a haunted Khmer Rouge prison where thousands of innocents were tortured and murdered, hit a little too close to home. Cambodian officials decried the film saying that the filmmakers were benefitting from the mass Genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge. Thailand offered apologies and then released the film.

The Cambodian government were not too far off point in their complaint. While they charged that the producers were turning the horrific genocidal episode into a profit making drill, they did not mention the total disregard of the victims. At one point in Ghost Game, the contestants actually denigrate the remains in the prison, insulting their death and stating that they “deserve their fate.”

This is actually rather disturbing and one cannot help but feel it was a bit unnecessary to the plot. The evil commander figure who will reek havoc over all by the end of the film was going to do so anyway, the addition of insulting innocent dead – in a scenario that is all too close to real life – was in poor taste.

Sadly, the film, despite its original concept, loses pace and becomes a bit mundane as it trundles towards its climax. In some instances, the movie induces unintentional laughter. One character is meant to be running away in terror when something halts his escape. The scene, is pretty impressive until one notices how the character was running.

My daughter pointed it out, while screaming with laughter, and, once seen, it changes the feeling of the scene forever. The chap is in the background hunched over and scurrying comically rather than running in terror. It is truly funny and every single time I’ve re-watched it, laughter is my first reaction.

Ghost Game may have, after its original concept, lost pace and its way, but over all it still entertains. Thai horror has moved up several notches since its beginnings in the Asian horror market. The Ghost of Mae Nac, released one year prior, was a complete yawn-fest of slow moving
boredom.

Poster for Phobia aka 4bia Fast forward a few years to 2008 and the Thai horror anthology 4bia which was clever, well done and in this reviewer’s opinion, bloody brilliant. There are other films that prove Thailand is learning the horror lesson well, not least of which is the top notch film Shutter. Made in 2004, this film hits all the right notes, but from other films on offer, it appears that the lessons are hard earned and sometimes forgotten.

Ghost Game, or Laa-thaa-phii works well enough that it still manages to entertain despite the odd, and inadvertent, comical moments in the film. Certainly no worse than much of the dross that Hollywood puts out, “can anyone say Uninvited?” (A shoddy remake of a classic South Korean horror film, A Tale of Two Sisters.)

A great example of how Thai films are progressing and as said before, the concept is pretty damned original and worth a look. 3 out of 5 stars.

Scene from Ghost Game, "Get out!"
Yes he is saying, in very bad English, “Get out!”

Happy Anniversary: Has It Really Been Three Years?

Author's photo 2013
Sitting here recovering from being forced off the road on my bicycle Tuesday, my Internet came up briefly to show I’d gotten a trophy from WordPress. My connection then disappeared for hours so I hobbled around and did dishes and continued to put frozen vegetables on my swollen legs and ankles. Later, it came up long enough to reveal a Happy Third Anniversary award had been bestowed upon my little blog and the first thing that came to me was, “Has it really been three years?”

Really??

So much has happened in that short time span. Injury at, my then, work, returning to work, heart attack, ill-health retirement, Guardian Liberty Voice, South Africa, USA, Las Vegas, Arizona…

Sadly, throughout the Guardian Liberty Voice and Vegas time frame, I ignored my little WordPress baby. There were so many people I met in the business that should have been written about here. Stupidly, I put too much effort into an organization that was never going to amount to its owners’ claims.

This is about my blog, however, and not about shysters conning writers into over producing articles in a sweat shop content mill that pays less than nothing. I did take one thing away from my experience that hopefully will make my little blog a better place to hang out, I’ve gotten better at coming over here and posting.

While I’d like to say that I am also a better writer, my ego will not let me make a claim like that without laughing so instead let’s just say my confidence level has increased exponentially and leave it at that. And as you can see, I still have a tendency to write paragraph long sentences, so that has not changed!

But at least one thing has. My profession has gone from Prison Officer to professional writer. While I never made a fortune writing for my former employer I was paid to write. On the same token, it tickled me to death that I was paid to watch films and review them, something I did for free before and I also got to interview some awesomely talented actors, like Tony Todd, Tiny Lister, Terry Kiser, Stephen Bishop, Jordan Hayes, et al.

I got to meet some great folks at conventions and I was not paid to do that, it was expected that I attend all the con’s scheduled days, meet and greet and write a minimum of three articles a day. That never happened, and, somewhat unsurprisingly, despite what had been agreed upon, which was one article per day, this was not where the publisher saw the paper going, it was content mill or nothing.

All the fun I was having being duped into believing that what I was doing was crucial in building up a solid entertainment section kept me from my own “words and music.” My reasoning was that if I was getting paid to write, I had no time to write for free.

This from a guy who was writing, for quite a while, 8 to 10 500 word-plus articles a day. Now I have made up my mind that the only thing which will keep me from stopping by daily will be lack of Internet or death. Although I probably should make an allowance for healing time, as I just now put another bag of frozen broccoli on my leg.

I will say, again, how much I appreciate all those folks who have come along for the ride. Those who started off with me, only to leave through frustration, and then came back; I thank you for returning. You must have been checking up on me occasionally. That pleases me no end. For those who stop by to comment I also thank you. I have learned a lot from folks who took a moment or two to let me hear another point of view.

I raise my metaphorical glass to you all and I will try to never desert you, or my little blog again. Oh, and if the editors of WordPress ever feel the need to award my little blog another Freshly Pressed, I wouldn’t say no.

Just saying…

Cheers!

21 March 2015
Quartzsite, Arizona
USA

Bicycle versus Car: 0 – 1

Loves Truck Stop Each time I’ve ridden my, much admired I have to say, red Schwinn to and from town, there have been a considerable amount of drivers who refuse to leave adequate space between their motorized vehicle and my bike. Each time this happens, I fill the air with profanity and either lift one hand to indicate gap and or give the hand gesture for “wanker”

Or both.

At least one time I flipped an ignorant so-an-so a fairly furious bird…

Each time this happens, I vow to write an article about idiots who do not know the rules about leaving enough space between their vehicle and a bicycle. Whilst waiting to store up adequate vitriol to write said article, yesterday, the thing I have been dreading finally happened.

A car forced me off the paved surface. Not, however, off the main road, but off of a parking lot. (Which in my shocked state yesterday I continued to call a car park. This is particularly funny as my colleagues in the Prison Service were always poking fun at me for calling it a parking lot while I was in England!)

The whole thing was my fault. If I had not stopped at the truck stop where I’d left my pocketknife two days ago, it would not have happened. After checking with lost and found, it was not there, I got back on my bike and headed toward the exit to town.

In this portion of the parking lot, there are car spaces on each side for parking and the right hand side was full. As I passed the cars, a station wagon backed out of its space and sat there idling with its reverse lights on. I swerved to the far left to avoid the car and seconds after doing so a blue four-door sedan turned into the parking lot on “my side” of the road driving straight for me.

I was parallel to the station wagon facing the blue car. To my left was a 10 to 12 inch curb, an aggregate shoulder surface and a streetlamp with a large square, and yellow, base. I moved as close to the curb as I could while attempting to break.

The only thing I could tell about the blue vehicle was that a man appeared to be driving. The windows were tinted fairly dark and it was difficult to see with any certainty. The station wagon had still not moved and the sedan headed right towards me.

My bike impacted with the curb at roughly 7 mph as moving away from the car seemed prudent. I tapped the top of the curb with my left foot and the second time I tried this maneuver my foot “hopped” and both the Schwinn and myself went airborne. Approaching the ground I started to “tuck and roll” but my elbow was not quite tucked in enough.

I did roll, however, and stopped when the back of my head came in contact with the base of the streetlight. At the same time, my backpack hit the ground with some force. My first thought was of my MacBook Pro, my only real source of income at the moment.

I sat up slowly and ignored the panicky desire to open my pack to check the laptop and began to check for bruises, broken bones, et al. A group of men were working on a SUV opposite me and they paused to glance over.

“Did that guy hit you?”

“No mate, he forced me off the bloody road!”

They shook their heads and chuckled. No one asked if I was okay, so I must have looked all right. I checked my legs and found that the right leg, on the shin area, had a huge amount of swelling on the front, about as long as your forearm. My left leg had a fist-sized bump near the outside of the calf and my left elbow had an egg-sized lump on it.

I quickly checked my bike and it appeared to be fine. I walked it to the front of Loves Truck Stop and locked my Schwinn up. I searched for a member of staff and after finding one, explained what had happened and asked if they had a first aid qualified worker on hand. She took me to the first aid section (aspirin, salves, et al). I said, “No, I don’t want the section, where is your first aider?”

She replied that they did not have one, that if anyone is that badly injured they are rushed to the nearest hospital.

I was amazed. In England, each place I worked had insisted that a minimal amount of staff were trained in first aid who could treat others who were injured until the ambulance could arrive. Not, apparently, in this country.

I went back out, hopped on my bike and rode it across the humpback bridge, over the I-10, and went to Burger King. I had a couple of coffees, a snack and called the VA to see what I could do for treatment.Burger King

I also rang the local “Urgent Care Clinic.” The young lady explained how they had worked VA treatment in the past and gave me the number to Quartzsite’s transit service. They came and collected me from BK and dropped me off at the clinic.

As the pain and swelling increased I spoke again with the VA who gave permission for me to use the local clinic, as the nearest facility was miles away. There was some initial confusion when the local folks thought I had actually been struck by the blue sedan and not just forced off the road. Apparently they cannot treat patients struck by a vehicle.

Finally, after what felt like hours, I was seen to. The nurse was concerned about my right leg. She put an Ace bandage on it and gave me instructions to put ice on the swelling every four hours for the next 48 hours. I was to keep the leg elevated and under no circumstances was I to walk on it.

The receptionist rang the local police to report a “hit and run” as the blue sedan never stopped. Although in this case it was a “forced off the road and run.” Her thinking was, even though I had very little information for local law enforcement, they could at least give my bike and me a lift home.

The police opted not to “follow up” the report, unless I really wanted them to. I explained that was fine as all I had noticed, before tumbling off onto the aggregate and dirt, was the color of the car and I was not even sure of the driver’s gender.

They did take me to get my bike from Burger King and helped me to load it into the back of the Range Rover police vehicle. They gave me a lift home and we chatted amiably all the way back. The officer, whose name I never did quite catch as it was a long one, said that they were going to start a campaign to inform drivers to leave enough space between them and a bicycle.

While waiting to be seen at the clinic, I did what I always do when in shock. I paced, ran off at the mouth and joked around a lot. (I was told off for pacing by the nurse.)

Since my return home, I have discovered a few things. Re-wrapping an Ace bandage, for instance, is an enormous pain in the arse. There is no way to put the thing on so that it looks like the original configuration and it feels loose where it did not before.

Frozen mixed vegetables work just as well as frozen peas as a substitute for ice and elevation is highly overrated. (Although it is quite comfortable.) The settee, where I have bivouacked for my period of recovery, may be comfy, but in terms of getting 3G on my hotspot is the worst area I could have chosen.

My T-Mobile signal is so weak and erratic that it is difficult to make a phone call let alone hook up to 3G (that they charge me for but in reality is 2G) so that communication with anyone is nigh on impossible.

I have also learned that the day after banging one’s head into a yellow concrete streetlight base, is when the swelling and tenderness starts.

Thankfully, since my heart attack in 2012, my pain gauge has increased. I am in pain, and it is difficult to walk, but it is nowhere near as agonizing as the day it took hours to “rush” me to hospital for my double heart surgery.

This little town constantly amazes me. Quite a number of the folks here are very friendly and helpful. Taking the “glass half full” road, I am counting myself very lucky that the bugger in the blue car did not hit me with his vehicle. I realize that I need to practice that tuck and roll maneuver just to see if I can get that elbow in quicker.

Finally: The biggest plus is that my laptop made it through virtually unscathed. Oh, the outside is a bit scuffed, but the inside bits still work and that is the most important thing of all. As I finish this article off, I thank the big guy for letting me off “lightly” with my bike versus car challenge. It may by 0 – 1 in the drivers favor, but as the local Sheriff, or deputy, put it, “things have a way of working out he’ll get his just reward one day.”

18 March 2015

Real Life in the Desert: The Lizards are Getting Bigger

deserted house in the desert

When I first moved down here in the real desert, the lizards were these teeny little dark shadows that flitted over and around small rocks and pebbles. Now the little fellers are getting bigger and longer, and scrambling over stones and the odd smallish boulder. They must also be that bit slower as I can see them easily.

The tiny shadow lizards moved so quickly that they seemed to be an optical illusion. A lighting fast streak of shade that disappeared before your eyes could focus on the small creature. Now they stay in view long enough that even without glasses they can be seen.

These are not the only desert denizens that are making regular appearances. Something that looks like a rat, but prettier, darts across the roads and can be seen very easily. These bold creatures will stay in the shade of a small bush and watch you pass. Monsieur Rat, or mouse, is around six to eight inches long, not counting his tail, and while not as cute as the chipmunks that scramble over the boulders that line the road, they are not ugly by any means.

After being here for a couple of months, where there has been no previous sign of them,  buzzards are now regularly  circling the hard pan on either side of the road. One persistent chap kept dropping down to the scrub brush along the washes. Presumably the “dead” animal he was going after was not quite ready to be put on the menu. There are, however, a great many new items alongside, and on, the roads  from rats to lizards and the occasional rabbit.

As it is spring, baby bunnies are hopping around the area. The cute creatures are not as numerous as the ones back in Suffolk. In the English countryside, there were always plenty of the tiny things clumsily jumping here and there, wide eyed and (sorry) bushy tailed learning about their world. The desert bunnies are obviously the offspring of the huge jack rabbits that call the hard pan their home as even though they are “babies” they dwarf their British relatives.

The appearance of the buzzards, or vultures, I can never remember which of these huge carrion loving creatures live in this part of the world, is a reminder that death is never too far away for denizens of the real desert.

The little house on the hill..
The mysterious house on the hill…

 

On the way home from town yesterday, as the sun dipped slowly behind the surrounding hills of Quartzsite, I found the police had closed off the only road open to a bicycle. The cars could take the alternate route via the Interstate, but my two-wheel self-propelled vehicle could only take the route in front of me.

One of the on-scene officers explained that the road would be closed for at least another two hours. Looking ahead I could see two motorcycles on the right hand side of the road. One looked as though it had been damaged, the other did not. Pointing to the left side of the pavement, I asked if walking my bike through on that part of the road’s narrow shoulder was acceptable.

It was.

As I pushed my bike up the small grade, the two motorcycles came and went whilst I tried not to be too morbidly curious. Glancing over, once or twice, I could see that one bike had hit the boulders on that side of the road with enough force that it buckled the front wheel and twisted it to the left; until it was almost completely back under the petrol tank.

A lone helmet lay on the small shoulder of the two lane road just in front of the large rocks. On one big boulder in front of the abandoned safety item a blue arrow had been spray painted. It pointed up. At a wild, and most likely over-imaginative, guess? It looked like the rider went airborne at the point of impact.

Later, as I neared my destination, a couple who had been driving pulled up beside me and asked about the blocked road. I explained about the bikes and added that I would not be surprised if the accident had ended in a fatality.

They were not impressed with the thought of a dead biker but then, they were both of an age where impending death is not so much a concern. To this older couple, death looked to be just another all too close step in their own personal journey. Being a sprightly young thing in my late 50s, I still struggle with the inevitable advent of my rapidly approaching mortality.

It may well be that along with the lizards getting bigger in the real desert, that living in this hot and harsh climate is not just about surviving, but also about dying. The manner of death for the creatures that are native to this environment is often a quick visitation under the blazing sun. Cause of death: A speeding car, an ATV, or a hikers boot. After all, living is also about dying. As the late Katherine Hepburn once said, “Of course life is hard, it kills you.”

15 March 2015

Eddie Murphy in Richard Pryor Biopic

Lee Daniels and Eddie Murphy Instagram
Lee Daniels is working hard to find that perfect cast for his upcoming Richard Pryor biopic as The Butler director is in talks with Eddie Murphy to be in the film. Thus far, Daniels has pulled in some big names to star in this much needed film about one of the funniest, and original comics in the world.

Read the rest of this article by clicking this [link]

Kathy Griffin Departing Fashion Police: Yawn

Kathy Griffin
Perhaps the most annoying thing about 54 year old Joan Rivers “wanna be” Kathy Griffin departing from the Fashion Police show on E! is that I have had to agree with that pompous and pretentious arse, Piers Morgan about something.

Read the rest of the article by clicking this [link] to Viral Global News.

The Things We Do For Love

Burger King Sitting here in Burger King and munching my burgers, drinking coffee and cruising the net, I stumbled over an article by a “stay at home mum.” It was written by Liz Pardue Schultz and featured on Time’s website.

Her article pointed out, quite rightly, that being a stay at home parent in this day and age was not a job, but a privilege. Before I get a load of negativity passed my way, let me explain why I agree with the writer in her definition.

Back in the 1990s I had a bad back. No one could figure out why I was in constant pain and the amount of pills I took daily were ridiculous. I worked for ages, high as a kite, but still in agonizing pain. Finally, my doctor forced me to go to yet another specialist and thank goodness she did. The doctor used the latest technology to figure out what was wrong with me and how to fix it.

Despite all the bad press the NHS get, the organization saved my life twice, one figuratively and the other time literally. While I was waiting for surgery to sort out my problem, I became a “stay at home dad.” I looked after our daughter and cleaned the house. Pain was a constant companion and I was still taking handfuls of tablets but I had a captive audience for the frustrated performer that lurked just beneath my skin.

My daughter was, and still is, my favorite person in the world. Funnily enough, she was a mummy’s girl when she was very small, around nine months old or so, but when she got older, the funny chap who could do all the voices of each character in her storybooks suddenly got promoted above mum.

This guy would sing old songs, and teach them to her, and would spend hours getting her to drift off to sleep. After the surgery that completely fixed my back issues, I worked for two years at a nighttime job packaging and delivering newspapers and magazines. Six days a week I toiled and on my day off I slept.

Thee only thing that kept me sane was that I still picked up my daughter from school and had a few hours to spend listening to her day, telling her of mine, and playing games. A favorite was one where I would imitate Dean Martin and she would provide the chorus. The number one choice of song was almost always That’s Amore because in the chorus there was a woman who sang with such gusto she could have been performing for an opera. We would each compete to see who could match the singer’s range and decibel level.

After a while the job with the newspaper company got old, I had taken it to primarily get back into shape after the operation, and I learned that the Prison Service were hiring. I jumped at the chance as they had great retirement benefits in those days and it was shift work. The interview went well, although at the time I had no idea whether they “liked me” or not.

HMP/YOI Warren Hill

I took a pay drop to get my foot into the door and with the idea I could transfer from support, my first job, and become a prison officer proper, I left the nighttime job without a single doubt. Once I started my new job I realized I’d found the perfect job. Every other weekend off, many were three or four day weekends as well, the odd day off in the week and shifts that were sometimes only four or five hours in length.

Overtime was available, and necessary, when I first started. The pay for support officers was horrible and I could not wait to become a regular officer. The hours were the same for both jobs and after I was trained and upgraded to a “Guv” I still had loads of time to spend with my family.

While this was a blessing in terms of being with my daughter, it became a nightmare in terms of my marriage. My second wife had built up a lot of resentment when I was off with my back. Something faded in our relationship and she grew jealous of my bond with our daughter.

But this is not about the demise of my second marriage or my job in the Her Majesty’s Prison Service, it is about the things we do for love. The writer of the article (Remember that? Way back at the beginning of this Gone With the Wind post?) about being a stay-at-home mum not being a “job” made the point that the time she spent with her child was a privilege (I know, I’ve said that already.) but she was right.

I spent way too many years in a relationship that should have ended in the 1990s. I let a lot of overtime slip by and allowed some acting opportunities to pass because I loved spending time with my kid and when I wasn’t doing that, I was there for her when mum, or the world, would beat her up a little (metaphorically speaking) to help her understand or to just listen.

I could never understand mothers who fell apart when their kids grew up and left home. Until, that is, my own grew up and moved away to attend University. I had it easy though. I was urged to go up and visit my youngster whenever possible. This enabled me to continue playing video games with her, watch films with my “movie buddy” and learn what her life was like at “Uni.”

This worked out perfectly until she finished and by that time both our lives had changed forever. She moved in with me temporarily and then after I left the Prison Service, I moved in with her and her boyfriend. (A smashing chap who seems to have been made just for her.) The hardest decision I ever had to make was the one that took me back to the country of my birth and left my baby behind.

I have had an exciting life, nothing earth shattering, but normal? No, it could not be called that. But apart from my little adventures, lots of little things came together to make my decision to stick with a job that allowed me the maximum amount of time to enjoy my child growing up the perfect one. Sticking in a broken marriage was painful for everyone but it was still the “right” thing to do.

Amazingly, it was my daughter who helped me, inadvertently, to “man-up” and finally leave. God bless her and two close friends at work who helped me to grow up just enough to make my escape.

I still miss my “kid” but I know she’s in good hands, hers and her fella’s, and even though I miss her so much it hurts, we are both where we need to be.

I think.

Still, the things we do for love make up a lot of our life’s big decisions. Sometimes they are the wrong, or incorrect, thing to do, but often they turn out just right. Even if it takes years to figure that out.