Movie Review: What horrors are hidden beneath the “Cracked” painting?

A lot of thrillers are undone by my least favorite convention of the genre — over-explaining. When this happens in a horror movie, one that traffics in the supernatural, it just seems worse.

Yeah, that thing that the natural world and natural laws say could never happen TOTALLY makes sense now. Thanks!

That plays a role in the undoing of “Cracked,” a generally solid, creepy thriller from Thailand about “haunted” paintings and what happens to those who own them.

The matched set, “Portrait of Beauty,” parts one and two, look like posters from the James Bond movies of the ’60s — a scantily-clad model in an erotic pose.

But Ruja, the daughter of the painter, is told they have great value. As this widowed Thai-American (Chayanit Chansangavej) has flown home from Chicago after getting the news of her father’s death mainly to get the cash to save her little girl’s vision, that’s what matters to her.

The “old friend of your father” (Sahajak Boonthanakit) who fetched her may give her the creeps. The “story” of the paintings inspiring spree killings is unsettling. And dang it, they need restoration to get top dollar at auction.

Let’s move on from the nightmares that return for Ruja and which seem to be visiting her daughter (Nutthatcha Padovan) now that they’re back in her family’s Thai mansion. Let’s pay little heed to how creeped-out the old housekeeper seems about the sinister, supernatural goings-on associated with the place and the paintings in the studio out back.

Snakes — including cobras — abound in the gloom. A red sash that must have belonged to a victiim — perhaps used to strangle her — plays a part.

Ruja is at her wits end when the kindly “cute” restorer Tim (Nichkhun) shows up, pooh-poohing any idea that the paintings are “haunted.” But something has been painted over which the cracks start to reveal.

Chansangavej makes a properly stricken heroine, desperate to save first her daughter’s sight, then her daughter’s life. And Nichkhun manages the “cute” and “skeptical” paint restorer who has to be “convinced” that something sinister is up.

Director and co-writer Surapong Ploensang does well enough by most of the genre conventions, building suspense in the early acts. But “Cracked” hits a wall in its repeated moments of “Little Rachel is in PERIL” and seems to have maxxed out its possibilities before all the “explaining” starts.

Which is why the “explaining” starts, I suppose.

It’s always interesting to see how another filmic culture approaches a genre much of the rest of the world has already beaten to death. Here, Ploensang, making his feature filmmaking debut, trips over the same thing that a thousand others have stumbled over before him.

Leave a little mystery. Leave the “explaining” to the viewer.

Rating: unrated, graphic violence, profanity

Cast: Chayanit Chansangavej, Sahajak Boonthanakit, Nutthatcha Padovan and Nichkhun

Credits: Directed by Surapong Ploensang, scripted by Ornusa Donsawai, Pun Homchuen, Eakasit Thairaat and Surapong Ploensang. A Film Movement release.

Running time: 1:32


About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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