Running Time: 106 minutes
MPAA Rating: R
Format: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0
Languages: English, Thai
Subtitles: English
Region: 1
MSRP: $26.98

Own It!
Demon Warriors (2008)

Advance buzz proclaimed this movie as Thailand’s answer to X-Men, right down to the blurb on the cover of  Magnolia/Magnet’s box: “A nasty version of X-Men”. Sorry, Mr. PR Flack, but no. Just plain No.

If you bother to read the back cover copy, you discover that “Detective Techit commits suicide as a way to enter and investigate the eternal-limbo existence of superghouls called Opapatikas.” I bring this up because this is not something the movie bothers to explain.

An Opapatika (the movie’s original name, apparently unmarketable in America) is a person who has committed suicide, passed through The Other Side, and emerged as a powerful supernatural being. The mysterious Mr. Sadok mentors Techit into his new existence as an Opapatika, because he needs his help to capture four other Opapatikas – for whatever nefarious purpose we must muddle through the movie to discover.

Muddle you will. There is a lot of fascinating stuff here, but the storytelling is so muddy and  incoherent I had no problems stopping the disc to attend to other matters – and it took some force of will to come back.  Allegiances between the Opapatikas flower and fall apart apparently offscreen, since even a scorecard would be no help keeping track of who is on whose side at any given moment.  Not helping is the fact that Sadok’s human right-hand man has an apparently inexhaustible supply of henchmen to be bloodily massacred by the hunted Opapatikas – I guess news doesn’t travel fast in these circles, because he never seems to run out of new hires.

There is a possibility the movie aspires to more drama than it is capable of delivering. The power of each Opapatika comes with a dreadful price; one can detect the Death Spot that allows him to instantly kill an opponent, but he also experiences the wound; one has super speed, but is powerless by day and a homicidal maniac at night; and Techit himself can read minds, but everytime he uses that power, he also loses one of his physical senses – and, though bereft of sight, hearing and smell by the end of the picture, has no problems functioning.

Yes, it could have been a powerful meditation on the karmic price of power.  It could have been a fable as Sadok’s right hand man proudly holds on to his normalcy, his very humanity, in the face of superhuman foes. It could have been sad, uplifting, powerful.

Instead it is a technically proficient mess.

A nice, clean menu leads into a slightly grainy video, though that may be a stylistic point rather than a technical deficiency; everything else about the movie, tech-wise is terrific. Audio is limited to the English and original Thai soundtrack in both Dolby 5.1 Surround and 2.0 stereo. I recommend sticking with the Thai track, which I usually do for snobbish reasons, but this time the voice acting is somewhat less than adequate, and the rewriting necessary to fit dialogue to lip movement is often unfortunate.

In The Making of Opapatika, director Thanadorn Pongsuwan gives a brief rundown on the characters, their powers and their relationships and does so far more clearly than in the damned movie. Past that, most of this featurette is taken up by Thai previews for the flick.

There are also trailers for The Mutant Chronicles (one of the worst titles I think I have ever seen for what appears to be an interesting movie), Jennifer Lynch’s Surveillance, and the Japanese comedy Big Man Japan. Oh, and a commercial for HDnet.

The disc box also lets you know this is "From the Producers of Ong Bak and The Protector." If you are hungry for Thai movies, you might be better served by waiting for the forthcoming Ong Bak 2 or any of a number of Thai diversions currently available domestically... Demon Warriors could, possibly, cause you to swear off that particular yen forever.

Dr. Freex, 9/23/2009