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Top 5 Cambodian Horror Movies


Writer: Florey DM


A still from "The Snake King's Wife", 1970.

Southeast Asia has long been known for its love of horror movies, with local moviemakers churning out a scary movie or two nearly every year. Most of these movies utilise local folklores, giving audience the chills through their incorporation of cultural beliefs in them.

Cambodia is one of the S.E.A. countries that has a penchant for spine-chilling horror movies, be it watching them or producing them. Also known as Khmer horror movies, they are typically made in the country, directed by Cambodian directors and made up of local cast, though some of these productions are done in collaboration with the Thai movie industry.

The Khmer horror genre enjoyed a highly-favourable reception after the release of "The Snake King's Wife", which resulted in several more Khmer horror movies to be produced in the 1970s. However, when the Khmer Rouge was in power, movies ceased to be made. It was only after its reign of terror ended in the late '70s that Khmer movies started being produced again.

Khmer horror movies once again saw a boost in the genre, which leads to an influx of horror movies from early '80s until late 2000s. Due to it dominating the Khmer movie industry, the Khmer Culture and Film ministry had to request for a decrease of production in the genre. Nowadays, Khmer horror movies are still being produced but in a lesser number compared to previously.

The following are the Top 5 Khmer horror movies that have made a prominent mark in the history of Khmer movies:

The Snake King's Wife (1970)

A movie directed by Tea Lim Koun, a director of Chinese Descent, who is now considered the father of Khmer cinema. It won 6 golden awards at the 19th Asian Movie Awards in Singapore in 1972, two of which include Best Director and Best Actress. It is based on the Cambodian Snake Goddess myth and tells the story of a woman who is impregnated by a phyton and is later killed by the husband when he finds out. The still above is from the movie's 2001 remake, "The Snake King's Child". Even though the title suggests it is a sequel, the story closely follows the 1971 original. It deserves a mention for its noteworthy slithering hair effect, which is made up of real live wriggling snakes taped to the wig fitted on the head of the actress.

Nieng Arp (2004)

Also known as "Lady Vampire", it is directed by Kam Chanthy, who is a Khmer-born director trained in Thailand. The movie features the mythical Arp, a ghost known throughout the S.E.A. regions by several other names. The 2013 Malaysian movie "Penanggal" featured the same ghost, albeit called by its local name in the country. "Nieng Arp" tells the story of a young woman who turns into an Arp after dying. In her new ghost form, she starts hunting down the rapists who has caused her death. She becomes a vengeful ghost that kills the men but spares the women from her wrath. This movie has been hailed as the first successful Khmer horror films in recent years. It has received positive reviews and back in 2008, was even chosen as the top film for Cambodia.

The Weird Villa (2004)

Like "Nieng Arp", this movie is also one of the high-grossing movies in Cambodia. Directed by Nop Sambath, it is reminiscent of 2013 South Korean movie "The Tale of Two Sisters", due to the appearance of a stepmother in the story. Influences of other successful horror films such as 2001's "The Others" and 1999's "The Sixth Sense" can also be seen in the movie. It has been praised for its mysterious plot and psychological impact on the audience's minds. The storyline is based on a true story that took place during the French colonial period in Cambodia.

The Crocodile (2005)

This award winning film directed by Mao Ayom was released in July 2005, due to its success, it was re-released two years later in November 2007. The film follows San, a farmer-turned-crocodile-hunter. Infuriated by the crocodiles in the village's river, which have been brutally attacking the villagers, San vows to hunt them all to death. The film won 7 awards at the Khmer National Film Festival, including Best Film. The other awards it has won are Best Creation, Best Scenario, Best Visual effects, Best Director, Best Writer (Mao Ayom, Dy Saveth), Best Actor and Best Young Actor.

The Forest (2005)

Directed by Heng Tola, it tells the story of a group of young archaelogists who ventures into the forest to look for an abandoned temple. They soon become the target of horrifying attacks, particularly from a giant snake. This film was nominated for several awards at the Khmer National Film Festival. It managed to bring home the award for Best Special Effects but lost the Best Film award to aforementioned "The Crocodile". Despite being criticised for being too smiliar to Thai movie "The Trek" and Hollywood's "Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid", it still managed to become one of Cambodia's high-grossing movies. Tickets to it were sold out on the opening weekend.

[Main photo source: khmer440.com]

Cinema Online, 25 October 2014



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