It’s a wonder that any innovation at all takes place within the monster film genre, seeing as there is always a new generation of young viewers for whom all the old creatures can be trotted out and run through their familiar paces. And this is no truer for the United States than it is for Cambodia, where the horror thriller Nieng Arp became a surprise hit in 2004, running in theaters for a solid three months.
Ghost of Guts Eater, the “Flying Evil” from Taiwan’s Witch With Flying Head, and the Leak from Indonesia’s Mystics in Bali. If you are too lazy to click those links, you will be none the wiser—unless, of course, you are unable to click them because you are a levitating, disembodied head with all of your entrails dangling out of your neck hole, in which case you know what an Arp is, because you are one. Nieng Arp’s subtitles further put a bow on things by translating “Arp” somewhat awkwardly as “Bodiless Vampire.”
Suzzanna cannot be mere coincidence. Maya shares the home with Paulika, her teenage daughter. Paulika is, by all appearances, a normal teenage girl, to the extent that one might suspect she is the victim of some kind of Marilyn Munster syndrome. Mom, meanwhile, keeps her head’s tendency to go airborne on the down low—until, that is, Satha (Sovan Makara), the hunk of the visiting group, starts to woo Paulika. In a turn of events that is almost Bollywood-like in its providence, Maya somehow divines that Satha is the descendant of one of her rapists--at which point no amount of pleading from Paulika, nor solemn intervention by the village monks, can stop her.
B14 or 666: Beware the End is at Hand you could watch than their trailers. Nieng Arp, of course, might have the benefit of making a little more narrative sense than those movies, were it the case that the time-shifting in it that I witnessed was unintentional.
no small amount of text to grieving the tragic end that befell Cambodia’s cinematic golden age of the 60s and 70s. After the ravages of Pol Pot (whose name is evoked in Nieng Arp as yet another shiver-inducing bogey man), the revival of that cinema was fitful and protracted, with a few bright spots amid long periods of dormancy. One of the brightest of those spots was the success of Nieng Arp, which, along with a number of other low budget horror features, prompted an uptick in film production and theater attendance in the country. All in all, it’s a heartening example of how exploitation cinema, with all its commerce-driven perseverance, can sometimes tow a nation’s entire film industry behind it into safer waters.