Friday, December 30, 2016

Honourable Mentions: Zee-Oui

There is a type of serial killer who are dubbed by the press as vampires – leading to such monikers as the Hanover Vampire or the Vampire of Düsseldorf. To my knowledge, Si Quey – or as spelt in this 2004 Buranee Rachjaibun & Nida Suthat Na Ayutthaya Thai film Zee-Oui – was never called such.

He was, however, the first reported serial killer in Thailand (though he was of Chinese origin) and he was a cannibal. Now, as much as some people deny it, there is a sub-set of the vampire genre that involves the eating of flesh as well as the drinking of blood. Indeed, the drinking of human blood is, of itself, an act of cannibalism. It struck me that Zee-Oui (maintaining the movie spelling) would have been nicknamed vampire had it been a European case and, also, there were aspects of this film that brought the film M to mind as I watched. Finally, as we will see, the film connected his cannibalism with a concept that it brought him health.

We begin with scenes of butchery and then newspapers with headlines about child murders. We also see Huang Li Hui (Yihong Duan) taken to be executed. We cut to his memory, the scene settling on Bangkok in 1946 and a ship disembarking. One of the passengers is Huang Li Hui – he stowed away to get across to Thailand. He goes into the admin area but cannot speak Thai and the officer has to call a translator over. They ask for his name and the officer renders his familial name to Ung from Huang, Li Hui he renders as Zee-Oui – despite protest. When Zee-Oui (I’ll stick to this name for the rest of the review) cannot pay the 10 baht tax he has his head shaved and is thrown in a holding cell until a man (claiming to be his uncle, and we know of nothing to say he isn’t although we meet a different uncle later) comes to collect him.

stealing from the family
He is taken to work for a family in China Town and is expected to slaughter and pluck chickens. He is given just plain rice to eat and is tormented by the family’s children. When he threatens them the mistress of the house brains him with a wooden shoe. In desperation he robs the family and leaves the city, heading into the provinces. Around this time there have been a spate of child murders and these are being investigated by lady reporter Dara (Premsinee Ratanasopha), despite the fact that her boss, Santi (Chatchai Plengpanich) would rather she focus on entertainment columns. The other homicides suggest that (whilst he was a murderer) Zee-Oui was ultimately blamed for crimes he didn’t commit as well as those he did.

losing the medicine
His next job involves moving sacks (presumably of grain). He is ridiculed by his fellow workers as he does not have the strength to carry the sacks (and also, probably, because he is Chinese rather than Thai). The only one who seems kind to him is a very young girl named Mei, who pours tea for the workers and is the owner’s daughter. Zee-Oui has an illness that manifests as a persistent cough (and likely is sapping his strength). He does, later, tell his Uncle that he has Asthma but we also note that, later, he coughs up blood. That indicates it is not (only) Asthma; he could have a respiratory infection or, at the very worst, TB. He gets some medicine with the last of his money but it is taken by his co-workers and ruined.

Santi and Dara
In a delirium he has a nightmare of when he was a Chinese soldier fighting the Japanese and his squad taking a village back from the enemy. He is clearly petrified and his commanding officer makes him kill a wounded Japanese officer with his bare hands. There is a point around this that he likely suffered from PTSD. Unfortunately Mei tries to wake him (with a flower) and, in his sleep, he grabs her and throttles her. Realising what he has done when he awakens he takes the body and dumps it. The resultant find brings Dara to the province and she does meet Zee-Oui and sees the knife his mother gave him. Zee-Oui loses the job, due to his inadequacy, and moves on.

He then starts farming (and children torment him again) but a monsoon destroys his crop. His cough worsens (possibly due to the climate). Eventually he becomes desperate and, at a fair, lures a girl with a balloon and murders her. It was the scenes of him luring, especially using a red ice treat, that reminded me stylistically of M. He mutilates the body by taking an organ (eventually we see it is the heart). He makes a broth with it for his cough. In flashback through the film we see that he was sickly as a child and his mother fed him broth made with the heart of an executed criminal to cure him. We also see his commanding officer trying to force him to eat a raw heart taken from the enemy, to gain the strength it contains.

cooking the heart
Dara realises that the police are conflating two killers and when Zee-Oui drops his knife, whilst escaping the scene of a murder, she recognises it and is able to confirm his identity and give the police a description. The film doesn’t explicitly tell us if he is tried for all the murders or just those he committed though Dara suggests that he was as much a victim as a villain. In fact the film does exceptionally well at making us have sympathy for this man who is clearly damaged and tormented.

heart broth
As for the real-life killer, online details are contradictory but his corpse is mummified and on display at the Songkran Niyomsane Forensic Medicine Museum. The case is labelled Si Quey but some sources name him Si Ouey Sae Urng. Some sources suggest he was executed by machine gun, others that he was hung. The film puts his date of execution as 16/9/59. The sources tend to agree that he ate the hearts and livers of his victims.

Not a vampire movie, as such, but certainly part of the serial killer sub-section that is of genre interest. The imdb page is here.

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