Krasue Soap Opera
interest in Asian floating head
movies is well known. Well, here’s something else: a floating head
Actually, the program I’ll be discussing is a
lakorn, a form unique to Thailand. Lakorns are broadcast during primetime, last
around two hours and run for a few months. Unlike American soaps, lakorns don’t
continue indefinitely; they always have a definite finish in which all loose
ends are tied up and everyone lives happily ever after.
EUY YEAY ARB
I’m going to partially synopsize a lakorn from 1994 called CHAO EUY
YEAY ARB. From what I understand it’s a fairly traditional example of the form
in some respects (it’s excessively melodramatic and features lots of sappy
romance) but quite nontraditional in others (the setting is an impoverished
village, as opposed to the upper class milieus of most lakorns). It stars
Satawat Dulyavichit and Rajeneekorn Pantmanee. No, I haven’t heard of those
people either, but my interest is due strictly to the fact that this lakorn is a
spooker involving Arbs--or Krasues, as they’re known in Thailand.
Floating Head Critters--A Quick Refresher
The Arb/Krasue/Leak/Penanggalon is a woman (never a man) whose head and
innards, according to South Asian mythology, leave her body each night to go a’
floating. The actions and properties of this creature vary from culture to
culture; in some countries it’s said to attack people and drink their blood.
The critters of CHAO EUY YEAY ARB are closest to the Cambodian interpretation,
which stipulates that Arbs (as they’re identified therein) are largely
nonviolent beings that can only harm people who’ve done them or their families
Observations about CHAO EUY YEAY ARB
The photography is of the cheesy high def variety
(apparently par the course); there’s no sex, nudity or excess gore, as Thai
censors are notoriously strict in regulating those things; the whole program was
evidently shot on location in actual Thai swampland (if there were any studio
sets I didn’t notice them); the music is noisy and melodramatic (and often
filched from other sources--I noticed several lifts from the JACOB’S LADDER
soundtrack), with an irritating tendency to cut off suddenly in the middle of
scenes; the acting is histrionic to an absurd degree; and the special effects
are...well, surprisingly not all that bad.
I only caught the first five hours of this lakorn. It was uploaded
onto Youtube from a DVD set containing (as the uploader “ladyaunt” claims) 5 or
6 discs with a running time of 5 hours apiece! I had a difficult enough time
slogging through five hours of this thing--I simply cannot imagine
enduring another thirty!
here’s my admittedly long-winded synopsis of the first five hours of CHAO EUY
YEAY ARB. Keep in mind the program was unsubtitled, so I likely misunderstood a
In an impoverished fishing village during some past era a Krasue (this
being a Thai production, I’ll use the Thai word for the creature) is loose.
It’s a gray haired old woman whose head floats around each night with its
innards attached--a green glow emanates from those innards, which lights the
krasue’s way. As CHAO EUY YEAY ARB begins several villagers are out with
torches searching for the krasue. Their search is a bust, however, as the
krasue manages to elude them.
Among the inhabitants of this village are a young mother dealing with
an abusive husband, the woman’s elderly mother, a devoutly religious woman, a
thief, and of course the ancient krasue lady, who during the day fondles an
apparently magic amulet.
The elderly mother is in trouble with her fellow
villagers for some reason. They harass her to the point that she tries to hang
herself. The other old woman intervenes, however, and the two chat--but it
gradually downs on the mother that the seemingly kindly old goat is in
fact...the krasue! Yet this doesn’t stop the woman from taking a (magic?) ring
from the crone. It would seem she’s somehow inherited the krasue curse.
Night: a young woman wakes up scared. She gets her husband to venture
outside with a flashlight and machete. He runs directly into the krasue, which
happens to be in a particularly dire mood, flicking its tongue lasciviously.
The guy scares it off by swinging the machete, and the next morning finds a
piece of intestine stuck to the blade.
That day the old woman chats with the krasue crone. The latter leads
the old woman to a small chest buried near her hut, filled with what look like
bones(?). These are apparently of some import, as the woman goes to great
lengths to hide the chest and its contents from her fellow villagers.
Passing of the Torch
At some point in this sequence of events the krasue woman dies--and
apparently passes on her curse to the old lady, who that night becomes a krasue
in a graphically depicted transformation sequence, with her head and innards
sliding out of her body as it lays prone. This krasue, however, has a white
glow in its center, as opposed to former krasue’s green one (important? Who
This new krasue wastes no time. That very night it performs one of the
more notorious acts of krasue lore, lapping up the afterbirth of a woman that
has been left outside her hut in a jug. The poor gal, who’s just suffered a
miscarriage, spots the bloody-lipped krasue through her window and dies of
Lady Withdraws/A REALLY vile sight
The old woman becomes increasingly withdrawn, and takes to wearing dark
glasses everywhere she goes. This is a good idea, as in her krasue guise she
confronts several villagers who clearly see her face. I should add that around
this point occurs the most disgusting scene by far: a man picks his nose with
the end of a pipe and then puts it in his mouth!
Here we get some background on the religious gal, who spends her days
(and nights) meditating at a Buddhist shrine with her equally devout mother. A
flashback shows that as a child the woman drank some contaminated water and
nearly died. I guess this helped steer her to a life of piety.
Speaking of children, the kids of this village are quite a rambunctious
bunch, particularly a mean boy who’s always disrupting the other kids’ games.
One strange thing about these twerps: all their voices sound like they were
dubbed (badly) by adults!
Krasue High Jinks and Some Banana Fu
To continue with the story at hand, the krasue persists in making
trouble each night, knocking a guy over at one point. During the day stupidity
ensues, with a creep coming on to a young woman and then getting into a goofy
fight with her boyfriend--kickboxing and banana throwing ensue, until the chick
beats the lech off with a stick.
From there we get lots and lots of miscellaneous chatter I didn’t
understand (are all lakorns this slow and talky???). There’s more krasue
action, of course, including a semi-comedic bit in which an apparently dead girl
is roused to life when the critter floats by her.
Krasue Does a Good Deed
A kidnapping livens things up somewhat. A bunch of skuzzy guys waylay
the krasue woman’s daughter, enclosing her in a burlap sack and hauling her off
to their hut. The act is witnessed by a friend who tells the old woman. That
night, in her krasue guise, she alerts the torch-wielding villagers, who are
moved to take time out from krasue hunting to rescue the kidnapped gal.
Another intriguing development occurs around this time. It seems
there’s another krasue afoot, this one a frizzy haired coot whose
presence is initially made manifest by an eerie wailing that awakens her
daughter. The latter lives below her mother in a two-story hut, and ventures
outside to see what’s going on. She spots her mother in krasue form and runs
This frizzy haired krasue--whose transformation is witnessed by the
religious woman, who literally appears out of thin air to view the action--is
far more aggressive than the others. It likes to scare people by entering their
huts, and also taunts the villagers in the town square, but in doing so the
monster gets its innards caught in tree branches and is nearly caught. It
manages to escape at the last minute, however.
It’s around this point that the first five hours of this lakorn came to
a merciful end. Several plot strands doubtless continued over the remaining
thirty hours, such as the religious woman’s relationship with the frizzy-haired
krasue, the possible significance of that bone-filled chest, and several
miscellaneous romances that I didn’t go into (be thankful!). There’s also the
fact that the opening logo pictures a young woman turning into a krasue,
whereas the three krasues featured thus far were old bags.
How precisely do I feel about what I’ve seen of CHAO EUY YEAY ARB? It has its
moments, but overall I was unimpressed. It may just be me, but it seemed that
during the krasue’s final act of aggression (which occurs very near the five
hour mark) its would-be victims--three nubile young women--looked more annoyed
than scared. I’ll have to admit I felt exactly the same way. Should you find
yourself feeling regretful that I only caught the first part of this apparently
neverending lakorn, rest assured that I’ve had more than my fill!