The Coffin (2008) – By Cary Conley

This Asian offering concerns people who follow the strange Thai ritual of spending a night in a coffin in order to erase bad karma. For most who take part in this odd event, miracles happen. Cancer is healed; death is stayed. But for an unfortunate few, the bad karma is merely transferred to someone else…and that other person is usually someone they love.

The Coffin focuses on two people, one a soon-to-be bride with cancer who participates in the coffin ritual in order to cure herself and a young man whose true love is in a coma. He just wants her to wake up so they can continue their lives. During the time they are in their respective coffins, they experience strange and scary visions, but these visions are soon forgotten once the bad karma is removed. But just as good things begin to happen–the cancer is cured for the bride-to-be and the young man’s lover awakens from her coma–tragedy sets in. The bride’s fiancée is killed in a terrible accident while the young man’s first wife dies in a fire trying to save her infant child. The specters of these corpses begin haunting the two as well as those around them. What do these visions mean? Are the ghosts seeking vengeance or trying to warn the people they cared about while they were alive?

The Coffin would be a really good movie if it hadn’t already been done–twice–and to better effect. I am referring to the classic creep fest Flatliners as well as M. Knight Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense. The Coffin is sort of a hybrid between these two films. There are obvious similarities between Flatliners and The Coffin, most significantly the fact that the main characters voluntarily subject themselves to strange experiments that, in effect, bring back the dead. Granted, the main characters in The Coffin never actually die, but the shots of them in their coffins as they enter the spirit realm reminded me a great deal of Flatliners. Also, the idea that these two characters have somehow brought vengeful and dangerous spirits back to hurt them is a classic Flatliners ploy.

In the end, the two protagonists must re-enter their coffins to reconnect with these spirits and solve the mystery of the hauntings; and much like Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense, we find that the ghosts aren’t necessarily out to cause any harm, but just need to find closure before fully moving into the spirit realm.

The Coffin is quite stylish and is beautifully photographed, which does create some tension within the story. It also offers up a well- done, atmospheric score along with a few jump scares. While the concept of the coffin ritual is unique and interesting for western audiences, the rest of the film is fairly standard fare. While the film isn’t rated, it would most likely garner a PG-13 rating as there isn’t much to offend here.

If you enjoy supernatural suspense stories more than gore or you just want to see every single Asian horror film that is released, then you might want to give this film a whirl. It is being released August 30 on Breaking Glass Pictures’ Vicious Circle label, which can be found at http://www.breakingglasspictures.com.