All Stories In 2022 Film ‘Vietnamese Horror Story,’ Explained

Vietnamese cinema isn’t exactly the most alluring film industry there is, especially in the Southeast Asian region. There are a few Thai films and even some Indonesian films that have attained a sort of crossover success, but we haven’t heard of a Vietnamese film that ever gained the honor. But this time, things are a little bit different. Director Tran Huu Tan, known for his previous horror outings such as ‘Home Sweet Home’ and ‘Survivor,’ is back for a third time with this new horror film abruptly titled “Vietnamese Horror Story” (we are pretty sure some ignorant American came up with this title). Anyway, at this time of Halloween, the film is smartly placed in the western market and has been making all the waves. But is it worth watching? Does the film have enough horror or mystery elements to keep the international audience hooked on it throughout its runtime? Let’s see.

First and foremost, “Vietnamese Horror Story” is centered around Vietnamese urban legends. Asian urban legends have a fascinating local flavor to them and molding them into horror stories pays off rather well. Tran has come up with a film with three interwoven stories, talking about demonic possessions, lonely spirits, and ill-fated superstars. The stories pertain to Vietnamese urban legends, as has been mentioned before, and hence, the audience can get a little lost in translation. So, this film needs to be watched very closely, and a little bit of research wouldn’t hurt. 

“Vietnamese Horror Story” begins with a group of friends that meet on a rainy night. This is their first get-together after a decade, and the power goes off. Yeah, work has been put into making it a perfect setting to tell horror stories. So, the five friends begin telling stories related to urban legends and see which one is scarier. 

The first story starts with a 1960s actress, Lan Huong, whom everybody loved. Her picture was also put on sugarcane juice carts to attract more customers. However, following an acid attack on her, she completely disappeared from the scene and faded away from people’s memories after some time. Years later, Ai Nhu is living in Lan’s house, and she welcomes a bright-eyed young actress Ngoc and takes her as a student. Ngoc has a boyfriend whom Ai doesn’t like. Hence, she forces her to break up with him, and Ngoc accepts it. However, the boyfriend dies in a car accident a few days later. One day, Ngoc gets locked in a secret room where she finds another woman with a severely disfigured face. The woman tells her that she is the real Ai Nhu and that the woman who’s living in the house is someone named Lan. It is then revealed that Lan was depressed over her disfigured face, and she learned how to peel off someone else’s face and wear it to go out in public. Ngoc is supposed to be her next target since the face needs to be changed every 20 years or so. But Ngoc is prepared, and she dies in the process of Lan trying to ‘steal’ her face. The story ends pretty abruptly just like that and leaves the audience shocked. 

Then begins the second story. While the first story had a coherent plotline and sufficient dialogue, the second story gets much more bizarre. The story starts with Dinh Pi, a young man who sells cotton candies for a living. He is obsessed with magic, mostly owing to his mentally upset father, Thoai Phi, who happens to be an old-school magician who used to perform some real magic tricks. Thoai keeps a devil’s mirror in his room, which is indicated to be earned in a bet with the devil, which he refuses to uphold. This resulted in some scary visions that Mr. Thoai was subjected to, such as decapitated ghosts, ghouls with eyes and mouths on their two hands, and other creepy visuals. The day comes when the evil forces approach Thoai in his apartment complex, and Dinh attempts to rescue his father. However, in the end, it is revealed that Dinh is merely an illusion conjured up by Thoai to escape loneliness. Thoai gets tired of living life as a crazy man and kills himself by stabbing his stomach with a knife.

The third story is about a psychic named Bich who receives a request from a couple named Mr. Dinh and Mrs. Hang. Mrs. Hang has a deceased sister, Ut, and she wants to find her remains. Bich takes on the job, and one of her visions leads her to a place called Long An, and she makes a trip to the place. There, she encounters an old woman who warns her not to pursue UT, as it might be the end for her. But Bich declines the warning and goes on to search for Ut. However, she can’t locate her and returns home, where she is now welcomed by two children with ‘big smiles’ and a headless witch. It is then revealed that Ut was raped and beheaded years ago, and her soul had entered Ut’s body. Another twist reveals that Mr. Dinh himself is a psychic, and he knew that all along. Ut’s skull is found in the ground, and Mrs. Hang performs a ceremony for her and bids goodbye to her sister.

All five friends are sitting in the same room by the time all three stories end. But by this time, the electricity has come back. All the friends go back to their rooms to sleep, except for Truong, who decides to watch the television. He sees a new story about a car accident, and strangely, the driver is named Truong. “Vietnamese Horror Story” ends with this shocking twist that it is Truong’s ghost sitting in this room, and he had died in that accident. 

While these urban legends attempt to capture the audience’s attention in their own creepy way, the film lacks a certain coherence in storytelling, which could have made this film a much better cinematic experience. The final revelation about Truong seems forced, as if it was done deliberately for the ‘shock’ element and did not make any sense. It would have been better if the Truong track had been explored a little more in the beginning. Talking about the three stories, they had their individual moments where they did offer occasional bouts of a true horror classic, certainly taking inspiration from the Japanese absurd and macabre horror. But collectively, on the scale of storytelling, the stories did lack a certain quality. In the end, the stories are easy to understand and decipher since they lack any deeper meaning. Rooted in Vietnamese urban legends, “Vietnamese Horror Story” could really entice the western audience due to its strong-rooted sense of horror and some amazing makeup effects. All in all, it’s a missed opportunity but somewhat passable as a genuinely scary horror film in little fragments.

‘Vietnamese Horror Story’ is a 2022 horror thriller film directed by Tran Huu Tan.

- Advertisement -
Manoj Ashodia
Manoj Ashodia
Manoj Ashodia is an independent filmmaker and a creative writer. He hails from India, a country with a millennium-old tradition of narrative fiction. He has been published on several popular online platforms and in print. He is a surrealist who hopes to have his stories seen by millions.
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Latest articles