Phra Rot-Meri (1981) Review

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

Phra Rot-Meri (1981) Review

Horrorific content by TE Simmons on April 01st, 2021 | Movie Review | Supernatural, Mutant, Witchcraft, Folk Horror

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It’s a Thai film about twelve orphans taken in by a sorceress and her two ogre sidekicks.

Phra Rot-Meri (also transliterated as Phra Rod Meree) was directed by Sompote Saengduenchai (a/k/a Sompote Sands) (director of Crocodile and Computer Superman) and stars Dam Datsakorn, Toon Hiransap, and Duangcheewan Komolsen (who also starred in Computer Superman).

Can Prince Rot rescue his mother and his aunties from a ghastly cave?

Phra Rot Meri Review

Phra Rot-Meri (or “Prince Rot and Princess Meri”) is an adaptation of a Thai fairy tale. There are also Cambodian and Laotian variations. The equally bizarre Cambodian film Puthisen Neang Kong Rey (1968), for example, utilizes the same myth. There is even an animated version.

The story begins like Hansel and Gretel. Cash-strapped parents abandon their children – a dozen daughters – in a forest. Having marked their path, they find their way back home. But they are abandoned a second time and wander, lost and hungry, until they come to a lake and catch some fish. Cruelly and senselessly, the girls poke out the fishes’ eyes (we’ll come back to this). Then the girls are found by a witch who takes them in, intending to gobble them up.

The girls mature, then escape. A local king spots them and – smitten – promptly marries all twelve. The witch is understandably flummoxed, so she locates the escapees, transforms herself into an enchantress, seduces the king, and joins the harem.

Now, it’s always dicey with sister wives, especially when one of them wants to eat the others. So next, the enchantress feigns illness and claims that the cure is a potion made from the other wives’ eyeballs. This makes sense to the king, so he scoops their eyes from their sockets. (Here’s the lesson for youngsters who torture fish.) Then he tosses them into a cave.

To make matters worse, the king starves them. They’re so hungry that they eat their stillborn babies. Only one baby is a live birth and escapes uneaten – it’s Prince Rot! Instantly, he grows up.

Prince Rot – son of Sip Song – is a bodhisattva, indeed Gautama Buddha himself in a previous life, according to some versions of the fairy tale. Rot embarks on a hero’s quest to save Sip Song and her sisters. From this point, things get complicated. There are cockfights, a flying horse, a magic club, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Most Western reviews of the film are totally baffled by it. The eye-gouging and infant-eating scenes seem startlingly out of place in what initially feels like a children’s story. Moreover, to accelerate Prince Rot’s growth from babe to hero, he suckles at the breast of one of the witch’s man-ogre sidekicks (a lactating man-ogre sidekick with magical milk and a heart of gold – admittedly not something you see every day).

In Phra Rot-Meri there are pachyderm-munching fiends. There is gore, but there are also scatological absurdities and slapstick. It’s 110% over-the-top mondo-weird. But a lot of the weirdness isn’t arbitrary; it’s plucked directly from the source material, which for Thai audiences, would have been familiar territory.

Worth Watching?

That’s a tough one. I’m going to say “yes.” The subtitled versions are hard to come by. But even without, it’s a stunning work.

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