Something American films have never gotten right when it comes to modern ghost stories is the sense of dread that the rest of the world, especially in Asia, have nailed even in the worst of their films. There is something that perhaps we have lost in American culture, the reverence and fear of the dead isn’t as strong here so we don’t fear spirits as much until they become violent towards us or our loved ones. But it is the knowledge the dead have of what lies beyond the veil of life that scares those in the other regions of the world, that, and that when the dead return, they don’t usually care to return to the darkness alone.
The Coffin tells the story of two strangers who come across a ritual done in Thailand where the living go through a burial ceremony to rid themselves of bad karma and they decide to go through the ceremony. What they find after the ritual is that they feel free, free of past worries and sorrows and in the case of the woman, free of Cancer. As happy as they are to be seeing life through new eyes though, they find that the horrors they faced within the coffin, during the ritual, are hanging with them and are becoming more horrifying by the day. It is only when their loved ones begin to suffer that the two begin investigating what is happening and the true nature of the ghosts they are seeing comes to life. It seems that if you rid yourself of bad karma you are merely passing it to the closest person to you. Now these two strangers must discover how to satisfy the things haunting them before they rip their lives and everyone in them apart.
A very subtle, very slow film, this plays well with the classic Asian ghost stories of recent years. The story isn’t quite as strong, and the scares are not quite as intense as other films but this is a solid tale that offers a lot of terror. There is a lot said here, a lot about coming to terms with your place in life, with death, and with life itself, and these only add to the film and give the viewer something to ponder when the movie is long over. Not a perfect picture, with some lulls in the pace, but a good movie and perfect for fans of subtle ghost stories.
7 out of 10