Ghost Lab brings the scares | Movie Review | Chicago Reader

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Ghost Lab brings the scares

Whether or not the scares make sense is up for debate.

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In the Thai horror film Ghost Lab, Thanapob Leeratanakachorn plays Wee, an introverted young residency doctor who spends all of his time at the hospital. When he’s not on duty, he’s quietly caring for his comatose mother. Wee’s coworker Gla, played by Paris Intarakomalyasut, is quite the opposite, a lighthearted prankster and charismatic boyfriend. But every time Wee is at his mother’s bedside, Gla is working on a secret project all his own.

He has converted an abandoned office space into the titular ghost lab, and after a shared paranormal encounter while working the night shift, Gla invites Wee to be a part of his research. Ambition overflows for the young doctors at the idea that one day they’ll secure enough evidence of ghosts to publish the most extraordinarily groundbreaking science, and Wee agrees to join Gla.

What follows is a zigzagging story of how that ambition causes the two men and their experiment to unravel. There’s field research with Paranormal Activity-style security camera scares, countless “Aha!” moments at the white board, and some ethical and moral blurred lines, until eventually, Gla and Wee reach the conclusion that the only viable test subject in their ghost experiment can be one of them (big TW for suicide in this film).

This means that along with the classic horror “Don’t go in the closet!” moments, there are big “Why are you doing this?” moments, along with frustrated pleas of “This is far from the only option right now!” It’s unpredictable and full of jump scares from the beginning, saddling viewers with the uneasiness of truly not knowing what the film will throw at them.

The premise is captivating, but the execution and overall story leave much to be desired.Tonally it’s all over the place, one moment dabbling in paranormal horror and gore, the next in soap-opera drama and comedy. Because it’s a Thai film, Ghost Lab refreshingly steers clear of stereotypical Christian horror symbols; instead of demons and upside-down crosses, some of the scares come from fear of suicide, losing hope in reincarnation, and other essential human questions about the afterlife (the latter dampened by being depicted as the cliché blurry white space). Leeratanakachorn and Intarakomalyasut perform perfectly well, although hindered by the lack of cogent character motivation throughout. It would have benefited from being much more rooted in both science and religion, rather than just scratching the surface.

As a whole, Ghost Lab is a pleasantly scary movie, made more captivating by being a foreign film. It’s entertaining enough to take audiences on a ride, albeit full of whiplash and plot holes and a confusing set of supernatural rules. But it’s perhaps most memorable for its unintentionally funny climax, during which the lab’s white board spins rapidly to reveal text written in Thai, appearing from nowhere. It’s translated in the subtitles as “Ghosts = ?” And that pretty much sums up the movie.  v

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