There's that hoary old line (and I do love me my hoary old lines) about too many cooks spoiling the broth. That's the very first thing I thought upon seeing that Art of the Devil 2 had no less than seven different directors. Directed by “The Ronin Team,” of Kongkiat Khomsiri, Isara Nadee, Seree Pongpinit, Pasith Buranajan, Putipong Saisikaew, Art Thamtrakul, and Yosapong Polsap (my spellcheck is going to hate me), Art of the Devil 2 has very little to do with its forebear (with the exception of Khmer witchcraft) yet is quite satisfying as a standalone piece, due in no small part to the consistent vision of the directorial septet.
However, I can't help but wonder if Tokyo Shock was watching the same movie as I was when I read the back of the DVD case. The differences (let alone a huge spoiler) are glaring:
The follow-up to the nerve-twisting 2004 Thai original, Art Of The Devil 2 chronicles the horrifying exploits of a seductive elementary school teacher named Miss Panor. Captivated by her beauty and desperate to win her heart, several (ummm...two, and that's a climactic revelation, dammit!) of the village men simultaneously cast a Love Spell on her. But that many spells is too much for one woman to handle, and Miss Panor soon begins to lose her grip on reality. When an Indian Witch doctor prescribes a diet of human flesh, Miss Panor plunges even deeper into the darkest corners of witchcraft. With the help of six of her former students (if by help you mean vengefully murder) , Miss Panor must tempt fate in order to take revenge on the lust-driven madmen who drove her to the edge of sanity.
Now, I'm sure I'm just being a stickler, but it really stuck in my head when I was watching the movie that I was expecting Miss Panor to be a mistreated anti-heroine who I could root for as she slaughtered her magical “attackers” a la Jennifer Hill. Instead, we're getting a lying, cheating, abusive stepmother who, upon getting her much-deserved comeuppance, resorts to the murder of strangers and self-mutilation. Or does she? The movie itself throws countless red herrings, turnarounds, and loops in your face that, at times, confused the ever-loving hell out of me all the way through the completely retarded “twist” ending that would make even M. Night Shyamalan groan. Without giving too much away, if you're going to offer up a shock ending, at least make sure the prior 90 minutes can back it up consistently.
But when the previous ninety minutes are so damn satisfying, I can forgive that.
Again, AotD2 has little to do with its predecessor, except for the Khmer witchcraft villainy and a certain witch doctor behind the scenes again. It doesn't have nearly the strength of story as the first, nor are its characters as likable. Where AotD2 excels is at sheer brutality. Whereas the first sequel had a few nasty scenes, virtually all involving victims vomiting up unpleasant stomach contents (razor blades, eels, etc.), the sequel pulls no punches. Right in the opening minutes of the movie, I already caught myself cringing as fish hooks tore their way through a man's skin, including one hell of a stomach-turner when one pops out through his eyelid. Later on, toenails are torn out, teeth are plucked, live geckos burst out of a boy's back, and one hapless girl gouges her own eyes out instead of suffering the horrible visions Miss Panor is torturing her with. The piece de resistance, however, is Miss Panor using a blowtorch to burn the skin on a man's legs to bubbling blackness, then wiping the dead skin off with a rag, which she then smells with a pleasant look on her face like she's just whiffed fresh-baked cookies. This film is nasty, people! Nasty!
As far as the previous mentioned seven directors, my hoary old line was thankfully nullified by The Ronin Team. Despite the fact that there's an awful lot of guys in the director's chair where there's normally only one, their combined vision was consistent and practically seamless. Pacing was spot-on, scares came fast and furious, and there was no shortage of cleverness on their part. In one truly memorable scene, after the aforementioned eye-gouging, we're given a POV shot of the recently blinded girl: basically a black screen with the soundscape coming alive as she stumbles around before tipping herself into a pot of boiling brine. It was a disorienting, frightening scene, and I loved it!
Like most of Tokyo Shock's releases for recent films, AotD2 looks and sounds great. Color looked a little too light for my tastes, and there was a few flecks of damage, but the clean edges and deep blacks smoothed over my ruffled feathers for the lesser transgressions. Audio is full and rich, with decent 5.1 mixing and clean dialogue. However, as I always warn, stay the hell away from the always-godawful English dub. Seriously, guys, why bother when it's gonna turn out this bad? Extras are razor-slim, consisting only of a few trailers and a surprisingly watchable documentary. All in all, an okay package for a pretty good movie.