Spirited Killer (1994)

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The late stuntmaster Panna Rittikrai started out as the star in a low of lower-budgeted Thai films before gaining the reputation as the mentor of some of Thailand’s top action stars, notably Tony Jaa and Jeeja Yanin. In 1994, Rittikrai took the lead villain role in this horror-martial arts hybrid that can be described as a martial arts Friday the 13th.

When a voodoo doctor, Duang, creates a potion to make the residents of a local village immortal, it is revealed that the potion acts more like a poison, killing off some of the locals. When Piak is the only one to survive Duang’s attacks, he warns the head of the village. Together, Piak, the village head, and some of the locals are able to off Duang. However, this is where the story only begins.

When a group of the villagers head back, they encounter a mysterious man who proceeds to nearly kill everyone in his sight with a barrage of martial arts and weaponry skills. Those who manage to escape do so very narrowly and inform the village head. Meanwhile, a group of traveling Japanese students and others enter the forest that leads to the village and are attacked constantly by the mysterious killer. It is up to the survivors to band together and stop the mysterious killer, who is proven to be more invincible and continues to fight and hack his way through anyone who gets in his way.

Originally released as Plook Mun Kuen Ma Nah 4, the fourth installment in what looks to be a Thai film series combining the supernatural and martial arts, Rittikrai brings a menacing foremanner as the mysterious killing machine. He does not speak a word and it is not needed. Those seeing the film as well as those he encounters in the film knows that he means business. Rittikrai, who along with collaborator Banlu Srisaeng (who co-stars as a mute Japanese tourist), pull out all the stops with a nice combination of unarmed martial arts as well as intricate sword fighting with a dose of “slasher” mixed in. This is action in true classic Rittikrai form.

Despite the labeling on the recent DVD released in the United States, Tony Jaa does not “lead the pack”. However, he does appear in the film as a tourist who falls victim to the mysterious killer. Jaa’s fight against Rittikrai lasts quite a few minutes due to the fact that he fights then runs, fights, runs, until finally he ends up dead. However, that doesn’t take away some of the performances of some of Rittikrai’s other core stuntmen, including Banlu Srisaeng, Srifah Duranee (in the lead role of Piak), and Morakot Kaewthani to name a few. While Jaa will be known as the future action star, this is a chance to see Jaa in one of his earliest films.

While the character of Piak, played by Srifah Duranee, is considered the main hero of the fillm, he comes off as quite annoying sometimes. The reason is because he is trying to impress the village head’s daughter, Fah. He feels necessary to make himself look good towards everyone he comes across, but judging from how he fares against at first Duang, then the mysterious killer, he is not better than anyone else. Another flaw in the film comes in the form a musical number that comes in after the first group of killings from the mystery killer. One only wonder what is the point of having this musical number in the film. Perhaps, it is a ploy to break away from the serious tone of the film, but it seems to be quite unnecessary here.

While Spirited Killer is not the best of a hybrid of horror and martial arts, those who are familiar with the likes of Tony Jaa and Panna Rittikrai cannot help but watch the film to check out Jaa before his breakthrough in Ong-Bak and seeing Rittikrai in perhaps one of his creepiest roles.

WFG RATING: C+

A Pechpanna Productions Ltd. Film. Director: Towatchai Ladloy. Producer: Chokchai Pechpanna.

Cast: Panna Rittikirai, Srifah Duranee, Morakot Kaewthani, Banlu Srisaeng, Jai Janmulltree, Kanuengchai Kenla, Thunyaluk Rarchatha, Tony Jaa.

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