Review: Pob (2018)

Manop and Pob
“Don’t leave me behind!” is a feeling that makes me shove my books into my bag and cling onto my colleagues as we leave the office. I say this out of fear that I may run into something, but in PobPen-ek Ratanaruang’s short in HBO’s Folklore seriesrunning into something could just work out in a wonderful way. 

This is exactly what happens when Manopa struggling journalist covering a murder, encounters Pob, a bloodthirsty ghost hiding from sunlight in a shed. From the start, we learn that Pob isn’t what we should fear here because he’s already weakened by the usual things like the sun and statues of Buddha. Instead, Pen-ek lets Pob whine to Manop, and us, about what’s scarier than spirits that can enter our homes and eat our organs. 



Asian Film Archive's event State of Motion: A Fear of Monsters included a double-bill screening of Pob and A Mother's Love (directed by Joko Anwar) at the newly opened Oldham Theatre. The screening was followed by a Q&A with director Pen-Ek.


Quote by Pen-Ek from the Q&A: “What if a person doesn’t recognise you as a ghost? There would be no reason to be scared.” 


What was supposed to be a normal night became a painful one for Pob. Instead of being greeted by a quick meal of a fresh American man, he was greeted by a “Hello there,” and a beer. His drop in confidence in communicating as a ghost reduces Pob to a regular person in an American man’s home, unable to do or say anything because of a language barrier that haunts not just him, but many other Thai people.


Quote by Pen-Ek from Q&A: “Thai people are scared of Americans.” 


In a comedic twist, Pob winds up driving the man to the hospital, but being in the driver’s seat hits too close and we relive Pob’s pain with what caused his death—he was a taxi driver robbed at gunpoint, then shot for fun and left behind.




In the film’s only moment of colour, we watch red seep into human Pob’s pale blue uniformed back, and we get a glimpse of what may be a scary sight to Pen-Ek Ratanaruangbeing left behind, be it as a human on the street or as a ghost to talk or scare or eat. 



Back in the shed, Manop suggests taking photos to publish Pob’s story, but talks about how it may be too absurd to work as an article. Pob is pissed - he did just spend all that time telling his story, but it could also be because he doesn’t want to remain forgotten. With his story re-told, he turns into a memory, his image captured and shared on the internet forever. 



In exchange for publishing Pob’s story, Manop asks for lucky numbers, yet even that can’t solve his problems. He pays his mother’s medical bills in full, but can’t stop her health from declining. As she flatlines, Manop ask for another deal with Pob - that if Pob saves his mother from death, he’d let Pob feed on his organs. After all, without his mother, Manop would also be left behind.

We don’t know if Pob does as he’s asked. On one hand, he did thank Manop moments before for helping him move on, and advised the young man to do the same. On the other, who was he to deny a free meal? Perhaps Pen-ek uses Pob’s smiling reflection to tell his audience to look at ourselves, to take a moment to think of what we’ll do if we ever became Pob.



This film was recently screened at the Asian Film Archive Oldham Theatre under its 'Fear of Monsters' screening series.

Written by Priscilla Liew

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