Sophon Sakdaphisit has really outdone himself with his new directorial venture Home For Rent. If there is a name that guarantees a proper ‘horror’ experience in today’s films, it is Sophon. As the writer of such films as “Shutter” and “Coming Soon”, his new film Home For Rent is a testament to his ability to create a terrifying world where anything can happen to your loved ones. He doesn’t give scientific explanations in his films to dilute the experience; he just deep dives into the purely supernatural element.
It’s nice to have a director who unabashedly jumps into what could be called old-school horror, and because Sophon has the conviction to pull it off, Home For Rent works really well. The film features some very strong performances by the actors, but it is the casting that has to be credited because it is spot on. The story revolves around Ning, Kwin’s wife. They have a daughter named Ing. Ning has a flat she rents regularly to tenants. After she finds her flat in a disheveled state, she decides to come to repair the flat herself and let the family house be the rented property. The new tenants arrive, and soon she finds out that they are part of an occult group and that her family is in the clutches of a deadly cult that wants to harm her daughter Ing, and the worst part is that Kwin may also be involved in it. The two most brilliant performances of the film come from Nittha Jirayungyurn, who played the role of Ning, and Penpak Sirikul, who played the role of Ratree, one of the new tenants. Let’s take a look at their characters in Home For Rent.
After Ning finds her flat looking like it has been mauled by a wild animal, she grows concerned but does not lose faith. The flat was her source of income, and even though her husband, Kwin, was an earning member, she was unemployed. Now, her only option was to sell the flat, but in its current state, it would be sold at a loss. Ning wanted Kwin’s help in the matter. She wasn’t just sitting idle and dependent on the flat’s rent; she was hunting for jobs and desperately wanted to get one. Regarding the flat, the help she wanted from Kwin was to agree to rent the family house instead and move into her flat with Ing.
The family house was more spacious and would get considerably more rent, so she could cover the cost of her flat’s repair and then sell it for a profit. After all the years of renting, she didn’t really want to sell it at a loss. Kwin was reluctant and, at one point, even passive aggressive on the whole matter, but he agreed to rent the family home to an elderly lady who moved in with her assistant. While Ning started to live in her flat with her family, her neighbor, Aunt Phorn, reported that she suspected the new neighbors to be part of a cult as she saw them chanting some strange verses. Aunt Phorn just added more doubt and suspicion to Ning’s mind, as she already had seen the same tattoo on both the new tenant and on Kwin. How odd? It was a rectangle-shaped tattoo with two dots in it, and she found it extremely strange that they would get the same tattoo.
When Ning was a little late for the meeting with the new tenants, Kwin almost rudely declined to meet them himself, even though he had previously agreed. It was as if there was some resentment he harbored against her. Yet, Ning was a good wife and an exceptionally caring mother, and she must have thought that Kwin finally understood it, as he was the one who put his foot forward and invited the new tenants. But this new business with the tenants was causing stress in her life as the distance between her and Kwin seemed to increase with their arrival. Perhaps it wasn’t a good idea at all to shift to her cramped apartment. This strange coincidence of Kwin having the same tattoo was bothering her, but she, too, was hesitant to ask. She distracted herself and put her focus on Ing, who was her lifeline. Ning didn’t know, but soon her daughter started to act distant as well.
On her birthday, her daughter wasn’t happy with Ning’s present for her, and she looked up a ‘Guri’ Doll she wanted. Later, when Ning saw Ing play with a raggedy Guri doll, she was stunned, as she was certain that they were out of the market. Ing told her that Kwin had gifted it to her. Was he trying to drive a wedge between Ing and Ning? Before she could sort out her own feelings regarding the matter, she saw Kwin on the apartment’s terrace, immersed in the same cult practice that Aunt Phorn had told her about. Ning was indeed terrified, but she wasn’t a coward. She tried to take away Kwin’s special ‘red book,’ which was of utmost importance to complete the ritual. The book had just blank pages. Investigating the matter proved pointless, as Aunt Phorn seemed to have abandoned her house, and Kwin was in no mood to tell her the truth. But when she saw the tenant with Ing at her school, Ning lost control and planned to take her away from Kwin. He was definitely colluding with the tenants, as when she found out through her detective friend about the tenants’ real identities, they didn’t prove to be doctors as they had said on their profile. Kwin didn’t pay any heed to this discovery. She was terrified, but in an effort to save her daughter, she managed to put an end to the cult.
No matter how courageous you are, you cannot save someone if they don’t want to be saved, and something similar was happening to her husband, Kwin. He had a past that she didn’t know about. After all was said and done, Ning decided that being a mother was what counted. She lost Ing’s soul, even though the cult was ended. Kwin had left Ning with his first daughter, Jaa, who was residing in Ing’s body. All this happened because Kwin had made a deal with the devil, and to understand what Ning overcame in the end, understanding the tenant’s, i.e., Ratree’s, character becomes crucial.
Eleven years ago, Kwin lost his daughter from his first marriage. He had lost his first wife earlier, and now Jaa was his only joy. Life was so cruel that it took her away from him. Time passed, and he grew fond of Ning, and they started a family together. But he wasn’t yet over Jaa’s untimely death. Ning didn’t know this. When Ratree came to see the new house, she enticed Kwin with the news that Jaa’s spirit was in the house and wanted to meet. But Kwin would have to join the cult and participate wholeheartedly in the ritual. If he wants to see Jaa again, he will have to let her use Ing’s body as a vessel. A chance to see his beloved Jaa again? There was no way Kwin was going to give it up. But Ratree was not here to help. She had devilish and selfish plans of her own. Ratree, who looked like an old woman, was, in fact, a young woman who had lost her own child and was simply using the old woman’s body just like a rented home. She pulled Kwin into her plan with such cunning ferocity that Kwin couldn’t use any rationale to even question her intentions. Why would she help him? What would she gain? He couldn’t ask these questions at the right time, and it almost proved too late.
Ratree deceived Kwin when she told him that Jaa would live in Ing’s body for a while before she left. Like how Ratree was staying in the old woman’s body. But she didn’t tell her that the old woman had been murdered, meaning that when the spirit entered, the previous person was totally obliterated, and only the body remained. Kwin had given Ing Jaa’s Guri doll, and the doll was going to be the vessel through which the spirit came. Ratree was on the lookout for the perfect candidate who could go through the ritual to provide a new home for her own daughter’s spirit. Jaa’s spirit was aware that Ratree was up to no good, but she was encased in the Guri doll by Ratree. Poor Kwin thought that Ratree would help free Jaa by putting her spirit in Ing. Her plan was to kill Kwin’s whole family and use Ing, who had a sixth sense of seeing spirits, which made her the perfect candidate for the ritual, to bring back her lost daughter. Kwin was stabbed and left for dead, while Ing was taken away for the ritual.
Apart from her assistant, Ning’s realtor was also part of Ratree’s cult, and he was the one who was given the task of killing Ning. He was the one who had helped destroy Ning’s flat and set in motion the entire scheme of reeling Kwin in Ratree’s devious plan. But he failed, and Ning killed him and went to rescue Ing, who had been taken away by Kwin to complete the ritual that he thought would bring Jaa back. Ratree required three tattoos: one on herself, one on Kwin, and one on Ing, which Kwin had to make himself with his own blood. Ning arrived and set the house on fire, which bought the wounded Kwin some time to mark the Guri Doll’s forehead with the triangle-shaped tattoo using his own blood, which broke the chain that would have put the spirit of Ratree’s daughter in Ing’s body.
Ultimately, Jaa’s spirit was freed and took residence there. She knew Ratree’s secret and killed her and her assistant. Everybody died except Jaa and Ning. Ratree and Ning were both mothers fighting for their daughters’ lives. Ratree was destroying somebody else’s life for the sake of her own daughter, which is why she was evil and needed to be destroyed. Ning’s selflessness ensured that Jaa survived in Ing’s body. She saw Ing in front of her in the hospital, but she didn’t call her ‘mum’; she referred to her as ‘aunt,’ and Ning realized that something was wrong. Yet, in the end, she didn’t become evil and try to get Jaa’s spirit out of Ing’s body. She accepted her as her own daughter. Ratree couldn’t succeed in her evil plan, and goodness triumphed over evil, even though just barely.