Thai writer-director Lee Thongkham’s horror feature is a giddy, gory little treat. Unfortunately, it’s hard to explain exactly what’s so fab about it without spoilers, so just take our word for it as long as you have the stomach for lots of fake blood and jump scares. Suffice to say that Thongkham is nimble when it comes to wrongfooting the viewer, and there’s some pleasingly pointed satire here as well, sticking it to rich, snobby people who think domestic workers are as disposable as empty washing up bottles.
The maid of the title is Joy (bob-haired ingenue Ploy Sornarin), a country girl who gets hired to schlep tea trays up and down the stairs in service to super-wealthy Uma (actor-model-singer Savika Chaiyadej), a woman so ridiculously haughty she dresses like a gameshow hostess for breakfast and always uses a cigarette holder – presumably so the butts don’t touch her lips. Joy has worked out that she’s but the latest in a long line of maids who don’t last long in that household, but when she asks the other servants they get all squirrelly and tell her she’s not to ask any questions.
Aside from tea tray transport, Joy’s other job is looking after Uma’s young daughter Nid (Keetapat Pongrue), a sweet little moppet with a sinister monkey toy that may or may not come to life when no one is looking. But pseudo-simian playthings aren’t all there is to worry about here: there’s another shadowy figure, usually visible only to the audience but also sensed by the characters, who skulks about auguring third-act mayhem once all the backstory has been explained.
Some viewers may not groove to the film’s lurid melodrama, exaggerated performances and stylised sets and costumes and, as with some other Thai films that have found distribution outside Asia, such as the super-saturated Thai “western” Tears of the Black Tiger back in the early 00s, this lies just on the cusp between naivety and camp. But that’s what makes it so interesting.
• The Maid is released on 11 October on digital platforms.