Evil in Oils


by Rachel Willis

Haunted objects are never creepier than when they have eyes that can stare back at you – even follow you as you move around the room. Such is the premise of director Surapong Ploensang’s film, Cracked.

When her father dies, Ruja (Chayanit Chansangavej) travels from the U.S. to Thailand to sell two of his paintings, both of a woman in a red scarf with gold snakes encircling her body. Though it’s clear that Ruja is uncomfortable in her childhood home, she braves the journey to oversee the restoration of the paintings because their sale will pay for a needed eye surgery for her daughter, Rachel (Nutthatcha Padovan).  

It’s a reasonable premise for horror, but Cracked never creates the right atmosphere to generate fear. The paintings at the center of the film aren’t very disturbing – although, as cracks begin to appear, they do become a little creepier. The use of snakes and their imagery result in the most success, mostly by playing on phobias. But a wrestling match with a white bed sheet is more humorous than scary. Ploensang’s attempts at jump scares are too heavy handed, and there isn’t enough tension to keep you on edge.

Most disappointing are missed chances for horror when we see through Rachel’s eyes. The camera work in these sequences is blurry, representing her deteriorating vision. Ample opportunity for creepiness, yes? Unfortunately, not in this film.

Cracked shifts between present day and flashbacks. Used more carefully, sequences of Ruja’s childhood could have added to the mystery of terror of her childhood home. Unfortunately, Ploensang flashes back too rarely in the beginning and too often at the climax.

Though supporting performances are uneven, ancillary characters add texture to the solid lead turns. In fact, the acting is the film’s strongest component. Chansangavej convinces, and Ruja’s fear might have been contagious if the surrounding elements had been more believable. And when Rachel is being terrorized, Padovan’s dread is heart wrenching.

It’s not enough, though. Within the subgenre of artwork horror or object-oriented horror, Cracked is one of the less memorable entries.

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