Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Dwarves Must Be Crazy, aka Krasue Kreung Khon (Thailand, 2016)

I watched The Dwarves Must Be Crazy not so much because I wanted to, but because I thought I should—in that, of all the films at Fantastic Fest, it was, to my mind, exactly the type my readers would expect me to review. Did I mention that it is a Thai supernatural comedy about a village of dwarfs at war with a gang of krasue? Given that, you might ask whether I now question some of the life choices that lead me to that decision. And, yeah, maybe I do a little.

The humor in Dwarves is of the slapstick variety, largely deriving from the innate hilarity of little people and the myriad ways in which they can be projected, catapulted and hurled through space—all to the accompaniment of Scooby Doo style sound effects. I have a friend who, during America’s cultural obsession with William Hung, posited that Hung’s popularity was due to him providing people with an opportunity to laugh at someone who acted like a retarded person without them actually laughing at a retarded person. Could a similar kind of sublimation be at work behind someone's desire to see little people gone airborne? Could it be that little people provide a somewhat less morally repugnant substitute (unless you’re a little person, that is) for some less socially acceptable target we would like to see chucked into the atmosphere… like, perhaps, babies? Hey, I’m just putting it out there.

The rest of The Dwarves Must Be Crazy’s humor centers around butts and the many things that can come out of, and be put into, them and their adjacent orifices: farts, sharts, shits, shit eating, piss, piss drinking, bumming, and implied krasue-on-dwarf analingus. Yes, I just wrote “krasue-on-dwarf analingus.” Strap in, people.

For those of you who have thus far been spared knowledge of what a krasue is, a bit of a recap from my review of Ghost of Guts Eater:

“The Krasue, as it's called in Thailand, is a horror found throughout the folklore of Southeast Asia. In Indonesia it's known as the Leak, in Cambodia as the Ap, and, in the Philippines, as Manananggal… For those unfamiliar, it is an airborne head with its complete digestive tract, intestines included, dangling freely beneath it as it sails menacingly through the night sky.”

I’ll add here that my favorite things about the krasue are (1) that it is so different from any creature in the Western horror canon (save for, perhaps, this one) and (2) that it manages to be at once terrifying and absurd.

Everything I know about krasue I learned from movies, and none of them seem to agree on just how a krasue is created. In many films, like Mystics in Bali and Witch With Flying Head, they are the product of a curse, but in Dwarves they are the result of little people eating weird glowing bugs that they find in the jungle.

Before that can happen, however, we have a wistful prologue in which the bucolic daily rhythms of the little people’s floating village are established. These, of course, involve a lot of the aforementioned farting, sharting, shitting, and pissing. I would say that the arrival of the krasue disturb these peaceful rhythms, except it turns out that they also fart a lot (albeit more strategically than the dwarfs do, as when one of the beasts forces a dwarf who is hiding underwater to reveal himself by farting into his snorkel.)

By the way, I think that adding flatulence to the krasue’s defining characteristics is at least medically sound, given they possess all of the equipment to produce gas without any of the musculature to suppress it. Keep this in mind the next time you share an elevator with one.

The fateful bug-eating occurs when a group of bumbling hunters from the village venture into the neighboring jungle in search of food. Because I did not take notes during the screening, I can only tell you that these hunters all have names like Hi Ho, Mi Mi, and Ho Ho. I know that sounds dismissive, but it’s true. Anyway, once several of them eat the bugs and subsequently lose their heads, the hunters flee back to the village with the Krasue literally nipping at their taut little hineys. Now where the Krasues’ predilection for ass play comes from, I don’t know; in most krasue movies, the monsters are presented as being exclusively female, and nourish themselves by sucking fetuses straight from the wombs of expectant mothers. Here, as most of the Krasue are male, I suppose that butt munching may have been deemed more appropriate, which I resent. I mean, I suppose it’s true that some men would rather dine on shit than eat pussy, but it’s far from a universal.

The terrified hunters arrive home to find their tale dismissed by their fellow villagers. Until, of course, the krasues arrive and start chowing down on them. This is followed by a flock of gryphon-like creatures that prey on both the krasue and the villagers. When the flying men fly off with one of the hunter’s girlfriends, the little guys resolve to head back into the jungle to settle matters once and for all. Along the way they enlist the aid of an old hermit who looks like a compacted version of a grey bearded sifu from a Shaw Brothers movie.

Ironically, The Dwarves Must Be Crazy, despite its trashiness, is a very nice looking film. It appears to have been shot entirely on location in the lush jungles and archipelagos of Thailand, which director Bin Banloerit films to stunning advantage. I mean, I don’t know how much it costs to take a bunch of little people, dress them in loincloths and set them loose in the jungle, but I can truly say that that money—save the laundry budget for all those soiled loincloths--is clearly all on the screen. The krasue effects, which combine CG and practical elements, are also quite good, although it has to be said that bad krasue effects are the best.

Another post-production aspect of Dwarves that deserves mention, although not for any positive reason, is its music, which consist of two alternating cues that wear out their welcome in the time it takes for a dwarf to fall off a log. One is a plucky, Loony Tunes style, “mischief is afoot” theme that plays whenever a gag is being set up. The other is a jaunty reggae theme that plays once the gag has putatively paid off. Neither of these cues proved of much use to the audience at the Drafthouse, who greeted most of the film with stony silence.

Ironically, the scene that drew the biggest laughs was a corny musical montage featuring the film’s two little lovers frolicking amongst the flora. Ironic, because, to me, that scene was The Dwarves Must Be Crazy’s most politically correct moment. To me it said that little people, being equal to anyone else, are as deserving as any non-little person of being the subjects of an embarrassingly saccharine rom-com montage accompanied by a cloying pop song. That’s what freedom is all about, baby.

In the restroom after the movie, I overheard some audience members expressing utter bafflement at what they had just seen. This caused me to ponder just how vast the distance between myself and the rest of humanity has become. You see, you’re going to hear a lot of people talk about how “weird” and “WTF” this film is. But to me, it’s just another movie with a bunch of dwarfs farting and peeing on one another. Next!

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