When weighing up the pros and cons of streaming movies vs physical media I always find myself staring at my DVD and Blu Ray laden shelves with a sence of pride. I have always been an old school kind of guy and have always leant towards actually OWNING the films I want over having them on a clutter-free, yet weirdly vunerable feeling hard drive – and yet there’s one thing that even I can admit: exploring unfamiliar genre fare while ploughing through the back catalogue of a streaming site is not only refreshingly risk free, but it’s cheap too.
It’s with this slightly mercenary attitude that I approached Inhuman Kiss – a 2019 Thai horror/romance that I never would of taken a chance on unless all I have to do was to click play – a movie I never would even heard of unless some funky algorithm hadn’t dumped it into my lap. Thinking I had nothing to lose but time (which is ok because my time is pretty worthless anyway) I set it up and hoped for some low-risk thrills – what I got was a thrillingly emotional monster mash paired with some legitimately original creature design that would have easily passed me by if I hadn’t hauled my cynical arse into the 21st century.
It’s Thailand, 1941 and while the Japanese are bombing Bangkok mercilessly, Sai, a young nurse, goes about her day to day say business in her remote, rural village. Pretty and untouched by the cruelties of the world, Sai’s only real problems are rebuffing the awkward advances of Jerd, her childhood friend who is quietly besotted with her – however before you can say “teen lit love triangle” her childhood crush Noi returns to the village after fleeing the warzone that their capital has become.
Noi hasn’t come home alone, though, because accompanying him are a bedraggled group of self proclaimed monster hunters led by the clearly unhinged Tad who claim to be stalking supernatural creatures known as Krasue, a species of solely female entities that disguise themselves as human during the day but feast on the blood and flesh of livestock when night falls.
Sure enough, various farm animals expire with a severe case of being half-eaten and the foolhardy Jerd elects to join the hunters while Noi having spent time with them on the road distrusts them and only wishes to kindle a romantic relationship with Sai.
However, Sai has rather pressing issues of her own such as waking up with her mattress soaked in blood, the fact she is sporting an inhuman rash on her chest and that she has taken to coughing up gore which leads to only one conclusion – she has become a Krasue; which means she has to endure the rather inconvenient habit of having her head detatching completely from her body, sprouting glowing pink tentacles and floating off looking for fresh blood to consume (and you thought sleep apnoea was bad…).
Noi valiantly tries to cover for his love by bringing her things to eat and trying to deflect suspicion but Sai, hopelessly naive to her inhuman condition, starts to unwittingly spread her curse around to other people (some shared saliva in a glass of water is enough to transform any young girl into a Krasue) and sooner or later, Tad and his crew are going to catch on…
It’s not every day you stumble across a tragic story about teenage love where the girl’s head pops off every night and floats around haunting a village, but this sort of thing is exactly the reason true lovers of genre fare should explore the dark recesses of streaming services just to see what scuttles out. Taking it’s concept admirably seriously, the filmmakers resist the urge to make light of our heroine’s rather unique plight in favour of a brooding, yet beautiful doomed romance. The leads are appealing and the story treads a well trodden but dependable path but the real draw here is the legitimately unpredictable nature of the film in general (I’ll say it again, the female romantic lead has a detachable head) and the sumptuous nature of the creatures that inhabit this world.
Fusing far out monster design with old native superstitions and mixing in classic old school monster tropes (there’s even angry villagers with torches) Inhuman Kiss feels very much in line with the movies Gullimero Del Toro is famous for with director Sittisiri Mongkolsiri wringing out maximum empathy for Sai’s monstrous, yet utterly beguiling condition – ethereal whispy hair billows around a pale face and milky eyes while bio-luminescent tendrils snake out of her neck making Sai resemble an disturbingly fetching jelly fish. Matters escalate with the introduction of the Krahang, the brutish, exclusively male counterparts to the Krasue who’s huge fangs, jacked up bodies and asshole demeanor are the complete antithesis to their dream like, female opposites and brings up subtle(ish) themes concerning the male/female devide.
Some may take umbrage with the rather po-faced nature of the film and feel that scenes of a levitating, squirmy ghost head fighting a fleshy gargoyle creature for the love of her life demand some levity, if only to acknowledge how bat-shit crazy it all its but I respectfully disagree. I I’ll admit some zany Sam Raimi antics are always fun when your horror movie has a more outlandish premise than most, but lapsing into goofy winking at the audience would only dilute the tragedy of the situation (I’m man enough to admit that actual tears where leeched from my eyeballs during the climax), after all, 1941’s The Wolf Man didn’t hit pause on Lawrence Talbot’s misery just to include a funny skit of him playing fetch or licking himself.
Proof positive that there’s streaming gold in them thar horror hills, it’s worth noting that I only came across this wonderful off-beat oddity because I decided to go off the beaten track and lift a few rocks in the areas of Netflix I usually never think to go and I urge you all to do the same instead of rewatching your favourite sitcom for the tenth time…
Inhuman Kiss, much like the Krasue herself, proves to be strangely beautiful, literally – but quietly – off it’s nut and definitely worth hunting down.