The 47-storey scalloped architectural project that is Sathorn Tower is like the Titanic. It was to be the tallest and most luxurious of buildings in Bangkok, commanding priceless views from its prime position. But Thailand’s financial crash in 1997, nicknamed the Tom Yum Goong Crisis, sunk the development and everything was brought to an abrupt halt.
The iconic high-rise fell into disrepair and became a horror location goldmine, with crumbling walls, dank corners, mouldy ceilings and dark corridors. And as all abandoned places tend to, ghostly encounters inevitably started to emerge.
20 years on, Director Sophon Sakdaphisit cashes in on the urban myths that have arisen from the forlorn structure, and against the sad backdrop, invents his own depressing tale of friendship and betrayal in his latest film The Promise.
Boum (Thunyaphat Pattarateerachaicharoen) and Ib (Panisara Rikulsurakan) are your average BFFs. The two girls do everything together, and even their fathers are partners in the promising Sathorn Tower development. All goes well, until the crisis hit.
Faced with bankruptcy, the family situation quickly deteriorates, and to avoid their harsh fates, the girls make a suicide pact. Grim stuff. Worst of all, when Ib goes ahead and ends her life with a shot to her head, it frightens Boum and she backs out from promise. See where this is going?
Twenty years pass and Boum is a real estate entrepreneur. One of her projects pushes her to the edge of closure so she decides to develop her inheritance of the Sathorn Tower. As she convinces Ib’s family to sell their share and goes on-site to spearhead the new project, her daughter Bell (Apichaya Thongkham) also has a relapse and begins sleepwalking. It’s not long before Boum realises that her promise to Ib has come back to haunt her.
Sakdaphisit has a few good notches in the Thai horror department, most notably being the writer for Shutter. His turns at being director has been more mediocre. The Promise is co-written by him, but his directorial curse has followed through and made this offering a little unsatisfying.
The Promise has a great dark premise and it was unfortunate that Sakdaphisit could not fully extract the terrifying elements from the themes of suicide, depression and sacrifice. There are great reveals that stun, such as the plot arc on the fathers, where Sakdaphisit’s trademark turn-of-the-knife keeps things gut-wrenching. But beyond those moments, the movie fails to ripen.
The creepy tower, such a key draw to this film, never really gets its full potential drawn out. There’s a few rooms and corridors being shown but they seem disconnected, making them feel more like sets than a fully realised building.
Some folks who like their jump scares will no doubt be grateful for the earlier part of the film, where audio crashes ensure some seat-jumping action. There’s also an interesting segment where a young boy named Mon (Teerapop Songwaja) with a certain “seeing eye” gets coerced to help Bouem. But these promises of thrills don’t get fully realised and makes The Promise… a little empty.
The macabre storyline sits well in the terrifying iconic tower. But The Promise doesn’t milk both assets for their worth and ends up a little unfulfilled.
First published: MovieXclusive.com