Every country has its most popular styles of humor. Often certain styles seem odd or simply fall flat when watched or listened to by people who are accustomed to their own homegrown humor options. Having lived in and travelled around Asia for the past nine years, and been exposed to comedy television and films from several of that continent’s countries, I have seen among those offerings what surely must be some of the broadest humor being created today. Then along from Thailand comes Krasue Kreung Khon (The Dwarves Must Be Crazy, 2016), a film that either raises or lowers, depending on one’s viewpoint, the bar for what broad humor really means.
Krasue Kreung Khon isn’t coy about what it is bringing to the cinematic table. There are more exposed-buttocks jokes in the first eight minutes of this movie than any film in recent memory. Add to that slide whistles that accent attempts at jokes and a large number of other foley cliches, xylophones, and a score that repeats what sounds like the music for a light-hearted commercial, and you have the beginnings of a recipe for what goals this film has its sights set.
Scatalogical humor abounds; from my personal experience, I have seen and learned that this sort of jest is quite common and popular with many moviegoers and television watchers of all ages in many areas of Asia. Mileage may vary outside of this movie’s target audience. If this style worked for Krasue Kreung Khon, I might fondly use the term Rabelaisian, but the film isn’t worthy of that accolade. Jokes about height follow in close second place to the excrement and urine gags, with the occasional ribald crack not far behind. Keep in mind that I am no humor snob; I grew up loving the Three Stooges and still think that slapstick and what some people refer to as lowbrow comedy can claim its rightful place in modern comedy if done well. In this movie, it isn’t. Gags are so repetitive that the comedy rule of three is recycled into the comedy rule of several dozen.
Krasue Kreung Khon concerns a tribe of diminutive people, some of whose members happen on a new type of bug while hunting. A few of the tribespeople eat the bugs raw despite being warned by others that it might not be the wisest idea. Sure enough, those who ingested the critters find themselves deathly sick and they eventually transform into krasue, floating demons that have only a head and attached intestines (a staple — in several different names and varieties — of Southeast Asian folklore, perhaps known most widely in cinema from Leák [Mystics in Bali, Indonesia, 1981]).
A group of volunteers sets out to seek advice from the priests at a local temple, as well as a scholarly hermit. As this group thinks up ways to rid its village of the krasue, misadventures ensue and romance even blossoms, at least in one person’s mind. This latter point is the feature of a rom-com–style montage that is played rather straight.
I have the feeling that Krasue Kreung Khon might be a family film or at the most a teenagers-and-up targeted offering; for one reason, little gore is on display. These krasue are out for one type of dining only: that of the butt-munching, heinie-noshing, tush-scarfing kind. Those bared behinds that I mentioned in the second paragraph play a major role in this movie. The monster effects are both of the CGI and practical varieties; the former aren’t amazing but are mostly passable, while the latter consist of faces in makeup or fake heads on a stick. Conveniently for the film’s budget, the krasue hide and rest by day, burrowing into holes in the ground or making nests in trees, rather than flying and chasing victims the whole time,
Director Bhin Banloerit (I have also seen this spelled as Bin Bunluerit) seems to have a difficult time pacing the proceedings. After the demons are introduced, a good deal of the time that viewers see them again, they are sleeping (the demons, that is, just to clarify — though it is likely that some of your neighbors in the cinema may be enjoying a snooze, as well). Our heroes run away from a threat, and Krasue Kreung Khon slows down until a threat surfaces again, and the cycle is repeated. It’s hard to tell about the strength of Banloerit’s original screenplay because the English subtitles use somewhat current American slang in their translation.
Most of the cast is rather endearing; in my opinion, the acting is the strongest feature of the film. Even if the material is full of clunkers, the actors are fully devoted to their roles here. Without their committed performances, I would have very little to recommend about Krasue Kreung Khon.
Krasue Kreung Khon (The Dwarves Must Be Crazy) is currently screening at this year’s Overlook Film Festival (27 April to 30 April 2017, Mt. Hood, Oregon, USA).