“Cracked” is a beautifully crafted supernatural mystery from Thailand that gets under your skin with unnerving imagery and a twisty story.
At her lowest and most vulnerable, her estranged father’s friend, Vichai (Sahajak Boonthanakit), shows up and urges her to come back to Thailand.
Later that night, she has a horrifying and jolting nightmare during which she receives an ominous message from what appears to be the reanimated corpse of a dead woman, warning her not to go. Despite this, she does indeed make the trip with her daughter.
We soon learn why. Her very successful and wealthy artist father, Pakorn (Byron Bishop), has just passed away, and she’s been called home to help settle the estate. Though there is little love lost between father and daughter, Ruja desperately needs the money to help Rachel. However, it’s clear from the minute she steps foot in her father’s sprawling mansion that being there triggers feelings of distance and disconnection, with Ruja immediately consumed by unease.
Vichai escorts Ruja to her father’s studio, where he presents two paintings, a pair of Gustav Klimt-esque works featuring a beautiful woman who seems oddly mystical.
Ruja is sure the painting shifts slightly when she looks at it.
Though warm in nature and exquisite to behold, with striking old and red tones, Ruja is disconcerted by the art.
Vichai explains that the first painting was sold to a collector for millions of dollars but was returned at no cost after the owner hung his entire family and left a note requesting the art be returned. Coincidentally, he reveals that Ruja’s father also died by hanging himself in his art studio.
Vichai informs Ruja that a millionaire has offered to buy both paintings for a hefty sum and suggests they bring in his son, Tim (K-Pop star Nichkhun), to restore the slightly cracked paintings prior to selling.
It’s not long before we get strong hints that there’s an unseen, dark presence lurking in the home. Something has taken a particular interest in Rachel, while Ruju continues to be haunted by memories of her past and increasingly terrifying nightmares.
Meanwhile, Tim arrives to being the restoration and discovers the damage to the paintings is considerable — far worse than he was led to believe, and far worse than what Ruju saw when she first arrived. As he removes a protruding piece to examine the damage, he makes a startling discovery. Though he is eager to explore more of the mystery, Ruja is frightened and insists on returning home immediately.
Yet, it soon becomes clear that leaving won’t be as easy as she hoped.
I love a good haunted object movie because it’s so innocuous — someone becomes cursed simply by inheriting something or innocently picking something up from the thrift store.
Objects find new homes all the time. But when bad luck begins to befall the new owner, it’s difficult for that person to tie the cause of misfortune to a potentially cursed object.
If you move into a haunted home, it might not take long to discover the house itself harbors some nasty spiritual energy. But bring home a thrifted antique, and it’s far less likely you’d attribute spooky shenanigans to that object. It’s the last thing anyone would ever suspect, making it more insidious and terrifying.
Velvet Buzzsaw (2019) is another great film that explores this idea. In that film, we are invited to consider that art can be both beautiful and haunting but also very literally haunted in a way that borderlines possession. This metaphor was adeptly used to mirror the cutthroat world of art curation and ownership, which is often little more than pretentious posturing.
Here, it’s used to illustrate the cracks in a family and the way money and influence can so easily be used as a veneer to paint over terrible ugliness and horror. Great genius can sometimes give cover to great evil, with some enablers far too willing to turn a blind eye to atrocities right in front of them out of fear or for the sake of comfort, security, or even just a brush with greatness.
Unlike many cursed object movies, in which an innocent victim becomes haunted for no good reason other than the fact they happened upon the evil artifact, Ruju is haunted by more than just a couple of nefarious paintings. She’s also haunted by the ghosts of her past, and her connection to the paintings is stronger than simple familial ties.
She’s plagued by demons, both real and metaphorical. And she’ll have to confront the cracks in her family history if she hopes to save herself and her daughter.
With strong visuals, beautiful cinematography, and a score that adds heightened tension, Cracked is incredibly well-made.
With art as its medium, this is a fantastically told supernatural tale. Directed by Surapong Ploensang in his feature directorial debut, it delivers ample atmosphere, chills, and mystery.
There are old things, older than we can imagine, that haunt Asia. The setting of the film perfectly complements the haunting story; it’s effectively eerie and feels steeped in old-world mysticism entangled within the lush jungles of Thailand.
My only real issue with the excellent Cracked is that, despite being an economical ninety-three minutes, it still feels a little long and drawn out beyond what seemed necessary to tell this story. Much of the narrative is packed into the final act, making this a bit of a slow burn. With that said, it’s well worth the time investment if you can be a bit patient.
Cracked should appeal to any folk horror or supernatural terror fan, especially those with an affinity for Asian horror. Though, if you have watched a lot of Asian horror, you may find this film a bit too familiar. I should also caution that it’s deficient in gore and focuses more on disturbing imagery and creeping suspense.
It’s best classified as a thriller rather than a straight horror film, but it has a stellar twist I never saw coming.
Ultimately, I found it quite a satisfying spookfest with enough boiling tension to keep me hooked until the climactic ending.