Neo-Apocalypse: A Thai trilogy of urban sickness


In the eyes of filmmaker Teerapat Wongpaisarnkit, the last three years of Covid-19 amounted to an apocalypse in Thailand.

The three films he made during the pandemic were selected for back-to-back screenings at an exclusive movie trilogy event held by the Doc Club & Pub and Lido Connect theatres in Bangkok on March 18 and 19.

The films in question are “Junk Food Fable” (2020), “Diary of A Purse F**ker” (2021) and “Caffeine Vampire & Piss Arsonist” (2022). Although their stories are not interconnected, they share the same theme: representing people’s emotional response to the urban sickness that Thais are facing in this apocalyptic world.

Teerapat graduated from Faculty of Information and Communication Technology at Silpakorn University but has been making short films since high school. During college he made several sci-fi films featuring visual effects that are raw and brutal.

He is also known for his other persona – Beam Wong – an electronic sound designer whose works have been used extensively in his films as well as being sold as separate albums.

In his early films, Teerapat introduced audiences to his personal obsessions using characters set in a weird, fictional environment. His thesis film, “HUU”, tells the story of a male protagonist who slowly falls in love with his right hand. Imagining the voice of an unknown woman who helps him masturbate, the man eventually merges himself with the female voice.

The film uses a Bangkok nightscape of high-rise buildings, elevated train tracks and neon billboards to transform the ordinary city into a sci-fi world that conveys the character’s loneliness and lack of emotions.

Teerapat’s early works contain no trace of political agenda, unlike his latest three films. The trilogy actively portrays the hopelessness of people in society who desperately want to leave the system Thailand is currently under.

Neo-Apocalypse: A Thai trilogy of urban sickness

The first film of the event, “Junk Food Fable”, is about a female idol trio who get stuck in a fast-food joint at 11.59pm. However, the time here never moves past midnight; the clock just ticks to 11.60, 11.61, and so on.

The first half hour is taken up by two girls eating French fries on a flyover bridge connecting a Skytrain station, another long-haired girl walking on the footpath, and a couple seen dining through a neon-lit restaurant window. Viewers may not understand the story in this unusually long prologue, but if they stick with it they learn that every character has their own narrative arc contributing to the main plot.

The confusion starts when the director uses the same cast members for at least two different roles. For example, the girls are introduced as an idol group but then reappear as waitresses in the restaurant. Teerapat is playing with the mind of viewers by not fixing the actors in their original roles, creating a new experience in movie watching.

The dialogue between protagonist “John” and the girls reflects their desperate need to escape from this country. The director shares his obsession with the cultures of Japan and South Korea, while speaking the mind of many Thai youths who don’t believe that they still have a bright future here in Thailand.

For the second film of the trilogy, “Diary of The Purse F**ker” lasting just under an hour, Teerapat uses an experimental narration technique with still images, video essay, and recorded voiceover.

This mode of narration appears to be the result of difficulties filming on set during the Covid-19 lockdown, when everyone was forced to stay home.

The film tells the story of a sound artist who tries to cure his best friend’s deviant behaviour of enjoying sex with a woman's purse. The protagonist believes that art can help his friend have a normal sex life, even under the political and economic pressures of the Covid outbreak.

Teerapat uses the first 14 minutes of the film to portray the sense of isolation, stress, and political tension with an allegory of a man who has trouble achieving orgasm, a feeling that many viewers may understand after three years of forced lockdown. The calm narration throughout the film also highlights the emotional turmoil of the main characters.

For the last film, “Caffeine Vampire & Piss Arsonist”, the director mixes the narration techniques from its two predecessors. The first half of the story is told by voiceover alternating from the perspectives of a male and female character, while the second half is presented in “story within a story” fashion.

The film tells the story of a female vampire who craves caffeine in the victim’s blood, and a man whose bodily fluids are all flammable – a nod to self-immolation political protests that the movie is building towards. The director adds the element of dreams to further confuse viewers, prompting them to question which events are real and which are just fantasy, and who is dreaming. Character development in the final film is highly fluid and despite hints of links with the previous films, it eventually goes nowhere, so the characters, as well as viewers, feel like they are trapped in a maze with no exit.

Teerapat’s neo-apocalypse trilogy is an archive of people’s emotional response to Thai society and politics during the outbreak that stands out from other short films due to its narration technique.

Yet however the story is told, what’s undeniable is the feeling of hopelessness in this country is real.

The trilogy was screened in a collaboration by the Documentary Club, Wildtype, and the director himself.