The ghost-like zombies and their metaphorical reading in Phi Ha Ayothaya/The Black Death (2015)

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Choedphong Uttama


Phi Ha Ayothaya/The Black Death (2015) is one of a few serious Thai zombie films which have been released theatrically. To make the Western zombies palatable to the Thai audience that is attracted to the ghost film, a popular genre in Thailand, the film, as this paper will show, employs strategies to create ghost-like zombies. This paper, firstly, aims to illustrate these strategies by the way in which the zombies are referred to as phi ha, a type of Thai folkloric ghost, and the way in which the zombies behave. The cultural beliefs associated with ghosts or ghost stories are also exploited to “ghostify” the zombies in the film, making the film closer to a ghost film. The ghost-like zombies, however, remain foreign monsters. The foreignness with which they are associated leads to another argument of this paper involving the metaphorical reading of these ghost-like zombies. They, similar to the zombies in many Thai zombie films, are a metaphor for corrupting foreign influences. These influences are destructive to the traditional values, religion and its teaching on impermanence. In addition, individuals are also corrupted by foreign influences as this is metaphorically represented by the character bitten and killed by a zombie having been infected with the foreign virus.


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